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 Bare bones: Making bones transparent
27.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>