Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Neutron analysis yields insight into bacteria for solar energy

24.03.2011
Structural studies of some of nature's most efficient light-harvesting systems are lighting the way for new generations of biologically inspired solar cell devices.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis and the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory used small-angle neutron scattering to analyze the structure of chlorosomes in green photosynthetic bacteria. Chlorosomes are efficient at collecting sunlight for conversion to energy, even in low-light and extreme environments.

"It's one of the most efficient light harvesting antenna complexes found in nature," said co-author and research scientist Volker Urban of ORNL's Center for Structural Molecular Biology, or CSMB.

Neutron analysis performed at the CSMB's Bio-SANS instrument at the High Flux Isotope Reactor allowed the team to examine chlorosome structure under a range of thermal and ionic conditions.

"We found that their structure changed very little under all these conditions, which shows them to be very stable," Urban said. "This is important for potential biohybrid applications – if you wanted to use them to harvest light in synthetic materials like a hybrid solar cell, for example."

The size, shape and organization of light-harvesting complexes such as chlorosomes are critical factors in electron transfer to semiconductor electrodes in solar devices. Understanding how chlorosomes function in nature could help scientists mimic the chlorosome's efficiency to create robust biohybrid or bio-inspired solar cells.

"What's so amazing about the chlorosome is that this large and complicated assembly is able to capture light effectively across a large area and then funnel the light to the reaction center without losing it along the way," Urban said. "Why this works so well in chlorosomes is not well understood at all."

"We're trying to find out general principles that are important for capturing, harvesting and transporting light efficiently and see how nature has solved that," Urban said.

Small-angle neutron scattering enabled the team to clearly observe the complicated biological systems at a nanoscale level without damaging the samples.

"With neutrons, you have an advantage that you get a very sharp contrast between these two phases, the chlorosome and the deuterated buffer. This gives you something like a clear black and white image," Urban said.

The team, led by Robert Blankenship of Washington University, published its findings in the journal Langmuir. The research was supported through the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by DOE's Office of Science. Both HFIR and the Bio-SANS facility at ORNL's Center for Structural Molecular Biology are also supported by DOE's Office of Science.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Image: http://www.ornl.gov/info/press_releases/photos/chlorosome.jpeg

Caption: Chlorosomes (shown in green) capture and transfer light energy to the reaction center for photosynthesis in bacteria. New research from Oak Ridge National Laboratory reveals that the chlorosomes maintain their structure even under extreme conditions.

NOTE TO EDITORS: You may read other press releases from Oak Ridge National Laboratory or learn more about the lab at http://www.ornl.gov/news. Additional information about ORNL is available at the sites below:

Twitter - http://twitter.com/oakridgelabnews

RSS Feeds - http://www.ornl.gov/ornlhome/rss_feeds.shtml

Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakridgelab

YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/user/OakRidgeNationalLab

LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/companies/oak-ridge-national-laboratory

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/Oak.Ridge.National.Laboratory

Morgan McCorkle | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ornl.gov

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Closing in on advanced prostate cancer
13.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

nachricht Visualizing single molecules in whole cells with a new spin
13.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>