Ben Hankamer co-directs the Solar Bio-fuels Consortium which brings together an international team of specialists to develop high-efficiency 2nd-generation bio-fuel production systems using microalgae. This represents a rapidly expanding area of biotechnology of global significance.
He is also a group leader within UQ's Institute for Molecular Biology. His group has a strong research focus on automation to increase the rate of protein structure determination. Their specialisation is the structural biology and biochemistry of the photosynthetic machinery, which drives the first step of converting solar energy into chemical energy (fuels). Consequently its optimisation offers significant downstream benefits for all bio-fuel production systems (bio-ethanol, bio-diesel, BTL diesel, bio-H2 and bio-methane). With colleagues, Prof Hankamer is now taking the ‘Visible Cell®’ approach to develop a 3D atlas of the photosynthetic machinery within the cellular context. This 3D atlas will assist in the fine-tuning of the light capture and conversion processes of photosynthesis, just as a manual is required to tune the engine of a car.