Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

On the Energy Trail: Berkeley Researchers Find New Details Following the Path of Solar Energy During Photosynthesis

29.04.2008
Imagine a technology that would not only provide a green and renewable source of electrical energy, but could also help scrub the atmosphere of excessive carbon dioxide resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
That’s the promise of artificial versions of photosynthesis, the process by which green plants have been converting solar energy into electrochemical energy for millions of years. To get there, however, scientists need a far better understanding of how Nature does it, starting with the harvesting of sunlight and the transporting of this energy to electrochemical reaction centers.

Graham Fleming, a physical chemist who holds joint appointments with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, is the leader of an ongoing effort to discover how plants are able to transfer energy through a network of pigment-protein complexes with nearly 100-percent efficiency. In previous studies, he and his research group used a laser-based technique they developed called two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy to track the flow of excitation energy through both time and space. Now, for the first time, they’ve been able to connect that flow to energy-transferring functions by providing direct experimental links between atomic and electronic structures in pigment-protein complexes.

“To fully understand how the energy-transfer system in photosynthesis works, you can’t just study the spatial landscape of these pigment-protein complexes, you also need to study the electronic energy landscape. This has been a challenge because the electronic energy landscape is not confined to a single molecule but is spread out over an entire system of molecules,” Fleming said. “Our new 2D electronic spectroscopy technique has enabled us to move beyond the imaging of structures and to start imaging functions. This makes it possible for us to examine the crucial aspects of the energy-transfer system that enable it to work the way it does.

In a paper published by the Biophysical Journal, Fleming and his group report on a study of the energy-transferring functions within the Fenna-Matthews-Olson (FMO) photosynthetic light-harvesting protein, a pigment-protein complex in green sulfur bacteria that serves as a model system because it consists of only seven well-characterized pigment molecules. The paper, entitled “Visualization of Excitonic Structure in the Fenna-Matthews-Olson Photosynthetic Complex by Polarization-Dependent Two-Dimensional Electronic Spectroscopy,” was co-authored by Elizabeth Read, along with Gabriela Schlau-Cohen, Gregory Engel, Jianzhong Wen and Robert Blankenship.

“The optical properties of bacteriochlorophyll pigments are well understood, and the spatial arrangement of the pigments in FMO is known, but this has not been enough to understand how the protein as a whole responds to light excitation,” said Read. “By polarizing the laser pulses in our 2D electronic spectroscopy set-up in specific ways, we were able to visualize the direction of electronic excitation states in the FMO complex and probe the way individual states contribute to the collective behavior of the pigment-protein complex after broadband excitation.”

Fleming has compared 2D electronic spectroscopy to the early super-heterodyne radios, where an incoming high frequency radio signal was converted by an oscillator to a lower frequency for more controllable amplification and better reception. In 2D electronic spectroscopy, a sample is sequentially flashed with light from three laser beams, delivered in femtosecond timescale bursts, while a fourth beam serves as a local oscillator to amplify and phase-match the resulting spectroscopic signals.

“By providing femtosecond temporal resolution and nanometer spatial resolution, 2D electronic spectroscopy allows us to simultaneously follow the dynamics of multiple electronic states, which makes it an especially useful tool for studying photosynthetic complexes,” Fleming said. “Because the pigment molecules within protein complexes have a fixed orientation relative to each other and each absorbs light polarized along a particular molecular axis, the use of 2D electronic spectroscopy with polarized laser pulses allows us to follow the electronic couplings and interactions (between pigments and the surrounding protein) that dictate the mechanism of energy flow. This suggests the possibility of designing future experiments that use combinations of tailored polarization sequences to separate and monitor individual energy relaxation pathways.”

In all photosynthetic systems, the conversion of light into chemical energy is driven by electronic couplings that give rise to collective excitations - called molecular or Frenkel excitons (after Russian physicist Yakov Frenkel) - which are distinct from individual pigment excitations. Energy in the form of these molecular excitons is transferred from one molecule to the next down specific energy pathways as determined by the electronic energy landscape of the complex. Polarization-selective 2D electronic spectroscopy is sensitive to molecular excitons - their energies, transition strengths, and orientations - and therefore is an ideal probe of complex functions.

“Using specialized polarization sequences that select for a particular cross-peak in a spectrum allows us to probe any one particular electronic coupling even in a system containing many interacting chromophores,” said Read. “The ability to probe specific interactions between electronic states more incisively should help us better understand the design principles of natural light-harvesting systems, which in turn should help in the design of artificial light-conversion devices.”

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California.

Lynn Yarris | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lbl.gov

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Multiregional brain on a chip
16.01.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

nachricht Researchers develop environmentally friendly soy air filter
16.01.2017 | Washington State University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

Im Focus: Bacterial Pac Man molecule snaps at sugar

Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.

The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle

17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice

17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>