Outputs, peer review etc





The global rate of electricity generation is increasing, but a significant proportion of the world’s electricity is generated from the burning of coal and other fossil fuels. Together with other human activities, the use of non-renewable energy sources is releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing dramatic changes to Earth’s climate. To avert catastrophe, major changes are required in the way we generate, use and store electricity. Systems such as battery banks and solar panels have a role to play in the energy revolution, and new technologies have the potential to accelerate and smooth the transition to green power sources.

Many biological processes involve electrical phenomena, which can be harnessed for creation of new devices such as living photovoltaics and biobatteries. At present, efforts to develop such technologies are somewhat fragmented, and this may be partly due to the lack of an overarching term to describe such research. Dr Katherine Dunn has proposed the new word ‘electrosynbionics’, to define the creation of engineered devices that use components derived from or inspired by biology to perform a useful electrical function. Here, the phrase ‘electrical function’ refers to the generation, use and storage of electricity.

In a 2020 paper entitled ‘The emerging science of electrosynbionics’, Katherine defines this term in full, explores the state of the art in the field and discusses the outlook for the future. 

We are actively carrying out research on new electrosynbionic technologies. 

Synthetic biology

We are also interested in synthetic biological systems that respond to electricity (Alex Speakman). 

DNA nanotechnology

DNA nanotechnology involves the use of DNA as a nanoscale engineering material.  We use DNA to build synthetic structures and devices that can be incorporated into new technologies for applications in medicine. For instance, we are working on ways to diagnose and monitor diseases by using DNA-based systems for detection and quantification of important biomarkers of various types. We are also interested in the use of DNA nanostructures in new therapies, including among others targeted drug delivery. 

Current projects on the theme of DNA nanotechnology include: 'DNA nanostructures as probes for multi-omic analyses' (Matthew Aquilina) and 'Bionanotechnology-enabled monitoring of disease progression during cancer treatment' (Nathan Wu). We work with colleagues in medicine and industry.

Recent papers (highlights)

The emerging science of electrosynbionics. K. E. Dunn. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics (2020). Link to paper.

The Business of DNA Nanotechnology: Commercialization of Origami and Other Technologies. K. E. Dunn. Molecules (2020). Link to paper.

Further information