Energy and Structural Biology in focus at this year’s Celsius–Linnaeus Lectures
4 February 2020
On Thursday 6 February, physicist, engineer and materials researcher Zhong Lin Wang and structural biologist Angela M. Gronenborn will be speaking at this year’s Celsius-Linnaeus lectures in Siegbahn Hall at the Ångström Laboratory. This will be followed by an interdisciplinary symposium in Polhem Hall on the theme of Energy and Structural Biology.
Here, hosts from the university offer a foretaste of what we can expect from Professors Wang and Gronenborn’s lectures.
“The nanogenerator can be charged by your heartbeat”
The 2020 Celsius lecturer is Dr Zhong Lin Wang of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States, and Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
One of Dr Wang’s hosts is Rajeev Ahuja, professor in physics specialising in theoretical materials studies at Uppsala University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.
What will Zhong Lin Wang’s lecture deal with?
"He will be discussing contact electrification, a phenomenon that has been known for 2,600 years but that is seldom utilised. Contact electrification occurs due to friction created when materials rub against one another. Zhong Lin Wang has not only scientifically described this energy, he has also used it to develop an entirely new device called the triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG)."
“These nanogenerators utilise the energy from our living environments and are therefore self-sufficient. This can be anything from our own heartbeats to the motion of ocean waves. During his lecture, Dr Wang will present his concept of a network of such nanogenerators designed to extract energy from the ocean. This may be one method to meet future global energy needs.”
Why has contact electrification not been utilised previously?
"Because people didn’t believe that nanoenergy could be used and instead focused on larger forms of energy such as solar power. Take pacemakers for example, which are connected to an external battery. What Zhong Lin Wang proposes instead is an implant containing a nanogenerator driven by the vibrations from your own heartbeat! There is then no need for an external battery. The same applies to charging your telephone; instead of connecting it to an electrical socket, your surgically implanted nanogenerator can use the energy from your own body movements. The material used for nanogenerators could be zinc oxide for example, meaning that it can be safely placed inside the body.”
That sounds exciting! Are you already involved in any research collaborations with Professor Wang?
“Yes, my research group is currently working on a project with him and his team. They want to connect this 2.600-year-old phenomenon to some type of theory: what is the basic underlying science? Our speciality here at Uppsala University is energy storage materials and proposing the ultimate materials for use in nanogenerators.”
Do you have any questions that you would like to ask him at the lecture?
“Yes, three things: Contact electrification is an old phenomenon so why have we only recently arrived at any good scientific interpretation of it? What impact might the basic understanding of contact electrification have in physics, chemistry and even biology? What are the most important uses of triboelectric nanogenerators and what is so new and innovative about them?”
“She represents a great leap forward in HIV research”
The 2020 Linnaeus Lecturer is Professor Angela M. Gronenborn of the Department of Structural Biology and Pittsburgh Center for HIV- Protein Interaction at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the United States. Her host is Máté Erdélyi, professor in organic chemistry at Uppsala University’s Department of Chemistry – BMC.
What will Angela M. Gronenborn’s lecture deal with?
“She will be discussing her research on biological macromolecules, such as proteins, DNA and RNA, and their interactions. She specialises in dynamics and structures, and has for example described several components of the HIV virus, most importantly its capsid. The virus functions and interacts in a very complex manner, which impacts greatly on how we develop drugs.”
Why should people take the time to come to Siegbahn Hall to listen to Professor Gronenborn?
"Angela Gronenborn is very good at presenting her research and is in demand all over the world. Over the next few months she will be giving three lectures in Sweden alone that I am aware of. The fact that she has succeeded in describing the capsid, and the external structures of HIV, is a major advance in the field of HIV research. She is at the very forefront of her field and is considered to be a candidate for the Nobel Prize.”
Do you have any particular question yourself that you are keen to ask Professor Gronenborn?
“That would be more in the area of her specialist field in which we also work. Where does she see the development of NMR spectroscopy (editor’s note: nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy) heading? She is an expert on this technology. Which aspects does she feel will be most important over the next five to ten years? That would be interesting to know.”
What does your own research deal with?
“Among other things, my research group develops molecules that can be useful against resistant bacteria and sends them to medical researchers around the world for testing. We conduct our malaria testing in Australia, cancer testing in Canada and the United States, tuberculosis in China and antibiotics in Norway. Among other things, we are looking at how antibiotics relate to the protein binding of substances, as well as something known as halogen bonding – which is basically a communication path between molecules of which we were previously unaware. We also work with natural remedies.”
What do you hope that the public can take away from Angela M. Gronenborn’s lecture?
“In particular, I think exactly this interdisciplinarity. Her insight is not limited to a small field, she has an overview of scientific and medical research and is very skilled at combining the various fields. So, I expect it to be a lecture that avoids examining the finer points in great detail; rather, it will offer an overall picture of the scientific and clinical challenges and opportunities that is quite easy to follow.”
Celsius–Linnaeus Lectures 2020
The Celsius Lecture, 6 February
09:15 Siegbahn Hall, Ångström Laboratory
Dr Zhong Lin Wang of the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States, and Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
The Linnaeus Lecture, 6 February
10:45 Siegbahn Hall, Ångström Laboratory.
The Art of Border Crossings: Integrative Multidisciplinarity in the Natural Sciences and the All Atom Model of a Native HIV Capsid
Professor Angela M. Gronenborn of the Department of Structural Biology and Pittsburgh Center for HIV- Protein Interaction at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the United States.
Place: Siegbahn Hall, Ångström Laboratory
Free admission. No registration required.
Place: Polhem Hall, Ångström Laboratory
Free admission. No registration required.