Hartmut Michel

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Hartmut Michel

Hartmut Michel (born July 18, 1948 in Ludwigsburg ) is a German biochemist. In 1988, together with Johann Deisenhofer and Robert Huber, he received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for research into the three-dimensional molecular structure of the reaction center of photosynthesis in the purple bacterium Rhodopseudomonas viridis .


Hartmut Michel was born in Ludwigsburg in Baden-Württemberg in 1948 . He studied biochemistry at the University of Tübingen and was in 1977 at the University of Wuerzburg at Dieter Oesterhelt with the work , the electrochemical proton gradient in Halobacterium halobium and its relationship to the intracellular levels of ATP, ADP and phosphate doctorate . 1986 followed his habilitation at the University of Munich . Since 1987 he has been Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt am Main , where he is Head of the Department of Molecular Membrane Biology.

Between February 2004 and April 2010, Michel was also a member of the Science Council appointed by the Federal President , which advises the Federal Government and the federal states on issues relating to the development of universities, science and research as well as university construction.

Michel is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Schering Foundation (Berlin) and of the board of trustees for the meetings of the Nobel Prize winners in Lindau .


In 1982 Hartmut Michel succeeded in crystallizing the photosynthetic reaction center of the purple bacterium Rhodopseudomonas viridis , thus creating the basis for a crystal structure analysis of the molecular structure . Together with Robert Huber and his working group, to which Johann Deisenhofer also belonged, Michel was able to elucidate the three-dimensional structure and together the researchers published their results in December 1985.

The process with which Hartmut Michel achieved the crystallization of the reaction centers, he later applied to a number of other organisms. The purple bacterium was rather coincidentally the first organism in which this was successful and thus its photosynthesis center was also the first membrane protein complex that could be analyzed by an X-ray structure analysis. The structure elucidation of the photosynthetically active complex made it possible for the first time to explain the precise atomic structure of this complex. Since the photosynthesis center of the purple bacterium is almost exactly the same as that of higher plants, the results can also be transferred to these.

Opinion on biofuels

In an editorial in Angewandte Chemie from 2012 with the headline "On the nonsense of biofuels ", Michel comments on energy policy. According to Michel, the use of solar energy through photosynthesis is considerably less efficient than the use of the same area for photovoltaics: According to his figures, biodiesel , which is made from rapeseed, "is less than 0.1%, for bioethanol less than 0.2% % and for biogas about 0.3% "of the energy of the irradiated sunlight is stored in the respective energy carriers. "The production of biofuels is an extremely inefficient use of the available agricultural land." Commercially available solar cells, on the other hand, convert sunlight with an efficiency of more than 15%, and the generated electrical energy can be stored in electrical batteries without major energy losses. This and the greater efficiency of the electric motor, which uses around 80% of the energy to drive the vehicle, means that the combination of photovoltaics and the use of electricity in the electric motor uses the available land 600 times better than the combination of biomass / biofuel / combustion engine . "We should therefore refrain from growing plants for the production of biofuels," writes Michel.


Hartmut Michel was honored in many ways for his work, the most important of which are:


  • Bernhard Kupfer: Lexicon of Nobel Prize Winners. Patmos-Verlag, Düsseldorf 2001, ISBN 3-491-72451-1 .

Web links

Commons : Hartmut Michel  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. biographical data, publications and Academic pedigree of Hartmut Michel in academictree.org, accessed on January 3 of 2019.
  2. ^ Council Members . In: The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings . ( lindau-nobel.org [accessed February 16, 2017]).
  3. H. Michel: Three-dimensional crystals of a membrane protein complex. The photosynthetic reaction center from Rhodopseudomonas viridis. In: Journal of molecular biology . Volume 158, Number 3, July 1982, pp. 567-572, ISSN  0022-2836 . PMID 7131557 .
  4. ^ J. Deisenhofer, O. Epp, K. Miki, R. Huber , H. Michel: Structure of the protein subunits in the photosynthetic reaction center of Rhodopseudomonas viridis at 3Å resolution. in: Nature . Volume 318, No. 6047, 1985, pp. 618-624, doi : 10.1038 / 318618a0
  5. ^ EW Knapp, SF Fischer, W. Zinth, M. Sander, W. Kaiser, J. Deisenhofer, H. Michel: Analysis of optical spectra from single crystals of Rhodopseudomonas viridis reaction centers. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America . Volume 82, Number 24, December 1985, pp. 8463-8467, ISSN  0027-8424 . PMID 16593636 . PMC 390936 (free full text).
  6. ^ From the nonsense of biofuels , in: Angewandte Chemie, 2012, 124, 2566–2568, doi : 10.1002 / anie.201200218
  7. see Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1988)
  8. List of medal recipients 1975–2019. (PDF; 180 kB) State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg, p. 31 , accessed on June 12, 2019 .
  9. ^ Membership directory: Hartmut Michel. Academia Europaea, accessed July 6, 2017 .
  10. ^ Member Directory: Hartmut Michel. National Academy of Sciences, accessed July 6, 2017 .
  11. ^ Member entry by Hartmut Michel at the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina , accessed on November 21, 2012.
  12. ^ Fellows of the Royal Society: Hartmut Michel. Royal Society, accessed July 6, 2017 .