Marsden Fund boosts research into molecular motors

Katherine Challis

Scion’s Dr Katharine Challis has been awarded a Marsden Fast Start grant to explore how tiny molecular motors use energy (refer Scion Connections, Issue 10 December 2013)

Katharine, a theoretical physicist working in our bioenergy and biofuels team, says that the ‘motors’ within biological systems (including cells) are far more efficient than industrial processes and finding out how these nano-motors work may have major implications for the future of bioenergy.

“We live and move because the molecular motors in our cells convert energy from one form to another. The fascinating thing is that these nanoscale motors operate very differently from large-scale motors found in your car or in industrial processes, and they are amazingly efficient. We want to know how their unrivalled efficiencies are achieved,” she says.

Fundamental understanding of biological energy conversion could provide clues for developing new highly-efficient industrial energy technologies. The $300,000 grant will be used by Katharine to develop a new comprehensive and universal theory especially for nanoscale molecular motors. She will be working with her former Science Leader Dr Michael Jack who is now at the University of Otago. Both wrote papers on the topic published by the American Physical Society last year.

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