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The new website has been created to host most of London labs engaged in photosysnthesis and bioenergetics research (http://www.photosynthesis.london). This site contains links to the websites of the individual labs involved and will present information on the joint activities, conferences and various opportunities within the network.

The mission of this network is to promote photosynthesis and bioenergetics research via communication and collaboration between the London groups and to nurture the next generation of photosynthesis researchers through training, networking and the fostering of broad international activities.


The laboratory has recently been engaged with companies Valoya and Microsoft in establishing a revolutionary LED-based illumination facility LightDNA at Queen Mary University of London. For more information please see the following video:



The laboratory offers places for several self funded PhD studentships with the current topics:

1. Quantifying light tolerance in plants.

2. Molecular factors that ensure high adaptability of Hedera helix to the light environment.

3. Role of antenna components in regulation of the photosynthetic light harvesting in plants.


Alexander Ruban: The Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award (WRMA); Fellow of The Royal Society of Biology (FRSB)


Ruban, A. (2012) The Photosynthetic Membrane: Molecular Mechanisms and Biophysics of Light Harvesting.Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, ISBN: 978-1-1199-6053-9.

This book offers an insight into the biophysical logic of nature using the example of the photosynthetic membrane of higher plants. It explains the molecular design of the complex photosynthetic machinery that performs a sequence of primary energy transformation events. The material is presented within the context of gradual explanation of complexity, historical development and multidisciplinary character. Such a text is long overdue, since it does not cover the whole of photosynthesis but focuses on its light-harvesting phase – a well-structured and regulated process that ensures a phenomenal flexibility in its adaptations to light. The book explains the essential features of life, one of the most important being the energy requirement that is fulfilled almost solely by sunlight. The advantages and specific physico-chemical features of the nanoscale level of the photosynthetic membrane organisation are described and the general make-up is presented, setting the scene and preparing the reader for the description of numerous methods of investigation of the photosynthetic membrane structure and functions, light harvesting principles, atomic structures, the macrostructural organisation of light–harvesting antennae within photosystems, the dynamic nature of light harvesting proteins and their adaptations to light. This book also contains a chapter considering the potential of the educational and practical applications of the knowledge obtained in studies of the photosynthetic membrane.

The author addresses this book, first of all, to the final year undergraduate students of various biology specialisations. Therefore he has directed all effort to adapting it to different levels of training in chemistry and physics. As the level of complexity gradually increases towards the end of the book it becomes relevant to postgraduate students and for a broader audience of those involved in photosynthesis research as well as bioenergetic membranes in general. With this book the author hopes to awake the interest of a broad audience of students, scientists and those who are attracted to the phenomenon of energy transformation in living nature.

Reviews of The Photosynthetic Membrane

Govindjee, Emeritus Professor of Biophysics and Plant Biology, Center of Biophysics and Computational Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA

‘This book by Alexander (for me Sasha) Ruban is a fascinating story in a beautiful language on a topic that must be fully understood as we begin to manipulate the antenna size to increase productivity of plants, algae and cyanobacteria. Among others, research groups of Donald (Don) R. Ort, Anastasios (Tasso) Melis, and Richard Sayre are already making progress in the direction of manipulating antenna size to get better photosynthesis, and thus, increased biomass.
Ruban’s book is indeed a great book to read and re-read. I recommend that it be put on “Reading lists” for students in biology, biochemistry, biophysics as well as in biotechnology. It is indeed a refreshing book to read, and it has great quotes. What I enjoyed most was that it includes lots of basic dictums.  It is unusual for me to write a book review by citing passages and things that I like. What follows is just a glimpse of a few random observations, but only from Chapter 1.

  • On page 2, it has seven very interesting and unique definition(s) of Life. I quote the 6th one:” Life is a form of “revolt” against the second law of thermodynamics achieved by very unstable “vulnerable” (soft matter) systems, a fragile lip of matter towards order and high organization on the way to the thermodynamic equilibrium and energy drain in the expanding Universe.
  • On page 3: (1) Speaking of electromagnetic radiation (light), Ruban writes” This is the best wireless and custom-addressed (not all matter stuff can get it) form of energy ever known to man. Quanta of electromagnetic radiation are spanning our Universe.” (2) Speaking of the energy from the Sun, Ruban writes “It is actually enough to boil 100 thousands of billions (1014) of kettles, roughly 10 thousands per capita of the planet’s population. For someone preferring a Bugatti-Veyron to tea, this is enough to run 20 Bugattis per person; mind you, it has got to be a car driving on a ‘green’ fuel.” (3) He writes: “The point is that the Sun was, is and will be for sometime, a very charitable body in the sly: it gives us all this energy for free, unlike the energy supplying companies.”
  • On Page 5, Ruban writes: “As Confucius said: ‘The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat.’ Photosynthesis by living organisms seems to be well equipped to deal effectively with such an elusive form of matter as light.”…’

‘I strongly recommend “The Photosynthetic Membrane”, by Alexander Ruban, to all the advanced undergraduate and graduate students and even researchers of Plant Biology, Plant Sciences, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology and Bioengineering. Further, all libraries around the World must acquire a copy of this book for their students and teaching faculty. It is indeed a beautiful and refreshing book at a time when we are just too busy with only technical aspects of a problem.’

Professor K. Alan Shore, Professor of Electronic Engineering, Bangor University, UK

“This volume provides an introduction to the fundamental design and functioning of the photosynthetic membrane and is aimed at a broad audience, including undergraduate and graduate students in biochemistry, molecular biology, biophysics, botany and bioengineering. Biochemistry and molecular biology methods for studying functions of the membrane are discussed, as well as visualization techniques including optical, electron and atomic force microscopy.  In addition, the book contains some interesting, albeit brief speculation as to whether knowledge of the biophysics of light harvesting can be transferred to the design of solar cells. Another ambitious idea discussed here is that deeper understanding of the photosynthetic membrane may offer opportunities for combating global warming. Hopefully some readers will be inspired to explore those opportunities.”

Professor Jun Minagawa, National Institute for Basic Biology, Japan

“I just like to tell you that I found you made a tremendous job in another area! Your new book "The Photosynthetic Membrane" just came in to my office (Maybe I was a bit late to notice it). Your book is the first truly comprehensive and really updated photosynthesis text book, yet having a consistent tone. There are many edited books around, but the tones vary in each chapter, which often time spoil my fun. And in many cases, so many errors.  But, your book is great”

Professor Jan Anderson, FRS, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

“I enjoyed this book so much.  I think it is a splendid book written in a beautiful style which is creative and refreshingly different. I loved the prologues to chapters and Fred Chow and I were interested to read the Confucius ones. I liked especially the “black cat” one.”


Ruban, A.V. (2015) Evolution under the Sun: optimising light harvesting in photosynthesis. Journal of Experimental Botany 66, 7-23.



BBSRC, B/L019027/1, ‘Novel methodology for quantitative assessment of the capacity for photoprotection in photosynthetic organisms’, 2014-2017.

The Leverhulme Trust, RPG-2012-478, 'Photosynthetic light harvesting in natural and artificial membranes', 2012-2015.

The Leverhulme Trust, RPG-2015-008, 'Inside of the photosynthetic membrane of diatom algae', 2015-2018.

The Royal Society International Exchanges Grant with China, 'Regulation of light harvesting in a green alga Bryopsis corticulans', 2015-2017.