How green plants expand their capacity to use solar energy?

Research from the lab of assistant professor of chemistry Gabriela Schlau-Cohen advances the understanding of plants' photosynthetic machinery.

Researchers mapped out pathways of energy flow that connect the high energy side of the absorbed solar spectrum to the low energy side. Image courtesy of the researchers
Researchers mapped out pathways of energy flow that connect the high energy side of the absorbed solar spectrum to the low energy side. Image courtesy of the researchers

Green plants catch light that traverses the obvious sun based range and keeping in mind that a wide otherworldly range is required for adequate assimilation, the procedure expects vitality to be piped quickly and productively downhill to drive charge division and water part. Carotenoids, the accessory shades in photosynthesis, play light reaping, photoprotective, and structural roles.

Understanding these jobs, notwithstanding, has ended up being a test because of the way that carotenoid’s energetics are very delicate to their condition.

Now a team led by Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Career Development Assistant Professor Gabriela Schlau-Cohen has discovered that a single carotenoid — LHCII — in the major antenna complex of green plants serves as the nexus of light harvesting by accumulating energy and transferring it through a debated dark state. This photophysics reveals how plants expand their capacity to capture and utilize solar energy.

Minjung Son, a graduate student in Schlau-Cohen’s lab said, “Solar energy devices must absorb a large fraction of the solar spectrum — i.e., many different energies or colors — to be competitive with fossil fuels. Absorption of these energies comes with a challenge: How can the high energy be funneled down to the low energy, which is what is used to produce electricity and eventually biomass?”

“We mapped out pathways of energy flow that connect the high energy side to the low energy side of the absorbed solar spectrum, including one pathway through a previously-debated dark state. This map provided a blueprint for solar energy devices that absorb a lot of energy across a broad range, as well as provides an important step in understanding the intricate photosynthetic machinery of plants.”

The research is described in “The Electronic Structure of Lutein 2 Is Optimized for Light Harvesting in Plants,” which is featured on the cover of the March 2019 issue of the journal Chem, which was released online on Jan. 31.