Dr. Elena A. Rozhkova Presents Merging Nanotechnology & Synthetic Biology Toward Directed Evolution of Energy Materials

Bio: Dr. Rozhkova earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at the Moscow State Institute for Fine Chemical Technology. She worked in Japan as a Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS) postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Advanced Materials, Tohoku University. After moving to the U.S. in 2003, she became a research staff member at the Chemistry Department of Princeton University, and later she moved to Chicago. Since joining the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory in 2007, Dr. Rozhkova has been focusing on a general theme of Nano-Bio Interfaces, one of the most exciting interdisciplinary research fields of our time. Success in this area can lead to the solution of emerging problems of civilization, for example, to provide alternative sustainable energy, to advance medical technologies in the diagnosis and treatment of incurable diseases. Dr. Rozhkova is a recipient of JSPS fellowship (2000), Brain Research Foundation Fay/Frank Women’s Council Award (2007), the U. of Chicago Argonne LLC Board of Governors Distinguished Performance Award and a medal (2013), Prof. M. J. Nanjan Fourth Endowment Lecture Award “For outstanding contributions in the field of nano-biotechnology” (2018). She was named an IEEE Nanotechnology Council Distinguished Lecturer 2021. 

Abstract: The interface between nanomaterials and biological systems, the living and synthetic worlds, has evolved into a new science, nanobiotechnology, which deals with the design of materials for a variety of applications, from the environmentally friendly energy sources to neural modulation through optogenetics. The evolution of a new function, which goes far beyond the individual original inorganic particles and biological molecules, requires a powerful combination of chemical synthesis, fabrication, synthetic biology, and self-assembly into hybrid hierarchical structures.  

In Dr. Rozhkova work, she uses microbial rhodopsins, transmembrane protein channels that are capable of light-guided translocation of ions across the lipid membrane. She has demonstrated that by combining these light-gated biological entities with inorganic, e.g. TiO2 and/or noble, nanoparticles they can perform the “artificial photosynthesis” function, e.g. H2 production, CO2 reduction and cell-like ATP synthesis [1-6].  

Optogenetics, an advanced high-precision technique of modulating excitable cells, such as neurons using light, harnesses similar microbial opsins; however, this method also relies on implantable fiber optics to deliver photons into the brain. She developed radioluminescent nanoparticles, which absorb X-ray energy and convert it into optical luminescence. When these nanoparticles are introduced into an animal brain, they serve as an in situ source of photons for high-fidelity modulation of a light-gated channel rhodopsin in neurons, thus offering a new wireless optogenetic approach [7,8].  


    1. Nano letters 13 (7), 3365-3371 (2013)
    2. ACS Nano 8 (8), 7995-8002 (2014)
    3. ACSnano11 (7), 6739-6745 (2017)
    4. US Patent 10, 220, 378 (2019)
    5. JACS 141 (30), 11811-11815 (2019)
    6. AngewandteChemie Int Ed (2019)
    7. ACS Nano, 15 (3) 5201-5208 (2021)
    8. US Patent App. 16/552,576(2021)