Many chemical synthesis techniques used in industry to create pharmaceuticals and consumer goods are extremely energy intensive and produce large amounts of toxic by-products. What if we could utilise light, a limitless energy supply from our sun, to activate these chemical reactions on-demand in order to limit our energy consumption and produce less waste as fewer reagents are required.

Better yet, we could also utilise light-sensitive chemical reagents that are found naturally in our bodies and bacteria in order to achieve these reactions. These so-called ‘photocatalysts’ can therefore be turned on and off when we want to perform a chemical reaction using light and pose no threat to the environment as they are biologically friendly in nature.

My research involves working with vitamin B2 (riboflavin) as a photocatalyst for different important chemical reactions, such as those used to make indigo dye for making our jeans blue and fragrance compounds to help us smell nice! By utilising other naturally occurring materials such as melanin from our skin, we are designing more efficient and robust photocatalyst systems to enable green and sustainable chemical synthesis of important molecules in our life.

Leander Crocker

NanoDTC Associate a2018