Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Argonne scientists uncover a photosynthetic puzzle

Abstract:
Quantum physics and plant biology seem like two branches of science that could not be more different, but surprisingly they may in fact be intimately tied.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame used ultrafast spectroscopy to see what happens at the subatomic level during the very first stage of photosynthesis. "If you think of photosynthesis as a marathon, we're getting a snapshot of what a runner looks like just as he leaves the blocks," said Argonne biochemist David Tiede. "We're seeing the potential for a much more fundamental interaction than a lot of people previously considered."

Argonne scientists uncover a photosynthetic puzzle

Argonne, IL | Posted on May 25th, 2012

While different species of plants, algae and bacteria have evolved a variety of different mechanisms to harvest light energy, they all share a feature known as a photosynthetic reaction center. Pigments and proteins found in the reaction center help organisms perform the initial stage of energy conversion.

These pigment molecules, or chromophores, are responsible for absorbing the energy carried by incoming light. After a photon hits the cell, it excites one of the electrons inside the chromophore. As they observed the initial step of the process, Argonne scientists saw something no one had observed before: a single photon appeared to excite different chromophores simultaneously.

"The behavior we were able to see at these very fast time scales implies a much more sophisticated mixing of electronic states," Tiede said. "It shows us that high-level biological systems could be tapped into very fundamental physics in a way that didn't seem likely or even possible."

The quantum effects observed in the course of the experiment hint that the natural light-harvesting processes involved in photosynthesis may be more efficient than previously indicated by classical biophysics, said chemist Gary Wiederrecht of Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials. "It leaves us wondering: how did Mother Nature create this incredibly elegant solution?" he said.

The result of the study could significantly influence efforts by chemists and nanoscientists to create artificial materials and devices that can imitate natural photosynthetic systems. Researchers still have a long way to go before they will be able to create devices that match the light harvesting efficiency of a plant.

One reason for this shortcoming, Tiede explained, is that artificial photosynthesis experiments have not been able to replicate the molecular matrix that contains the chromophores. "The level that we are at with artificial photosynthesis is that we can make the pigments and stick them together, but we cannot duplicate any of the external environment," he said. "The next step is to build in this framework, and then these kinds of quantum effects may become more apparent."

Because the moment when the quantum effect occurs is so short-lived - less than a trillionth of a second - scientists will have a hard time ascertaining biological and physical rationales for their existence in the first place. "It makes us wonder if they are really just there by accident, or if they are telling us something subtle and unique about these materials," Tiede said. "Whatever the case, we're getting at the fundamentals of the first step of energy conversion in photosynthesis."

An article based on the study appeared online in the March 12 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was supported by the DOE Office of Science.

####

About DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE's Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Jared Sagoff

630-252-5549

Copyright © DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

Imaging

Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins August 29th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

News and information

Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins August 29th, 2016

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

Laboratories

A new way to display the 3-D structure of molecules: Metal-organic frameworks provide a new platform for solving the structure of hard-to-study samples August 21st, 2016

Scientists uncover origin of high-temperature superconductivity in copper-oxide compound: Analysis of thousands of samples reveals that the compound becomes superconducting at an unusually high temperature because local electron pairs form a 'superfluid' that flows without resist August 19th, 2016

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing: 'Sweet spot' for mass-producing polymer solar cells may be far larger than dictated by the conventional wisdom August 12th, 2016

NREL technique leads to improved perovskite solar cells August 11th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Analog DNA circuit does math in a test tube: DNA computers could one day be programmed to diagnose and treat disease August 25th, 2016

New approach to determining how atoms are arranged in materials August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Discoveries

Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins August 29th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Announcements

Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins August 29th, 2016

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Energy

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Lehigh engineer discovers a high-speed nano-avalanche: New findings published in the Journal of Electrochemical Society about the process involving transformations in glass that occur under intense electrical and thermal conditions could lead the way to more energy-efficient glas August 24th, 2016

New flexible material can make any window 'smart' August 23rd, 2016

Researchers reduce expensive noble metals for fuel cell reactions August 22nd, 2016

Research partnerships

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

New theory could lead to new generation of energy friendly optoelectronics: Researchers at Queen's University Belfast and ETH Zurich, Switzerland, have created a new theoretical framework which could help physicists and device engineers design better optoelectronics August 23rd, 2016

A new way to display the 3-D structure of molecules: Metal-organic frameworks provide a new platform for solving the structure of hard-to-study samples August 21st, 2016

Researchers watch catalysts at work August 19th, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing: 'Sweet spot' for mass-producing polymer solar cells may be far larger than dictated by the conventional wisdom August 12th, 2016

NREL technique leads to improved perovskite solar cells August 11th, 2016

Making a solar energy conversion breakthrough with help from a ferroelectrics pioneer: Philadelphia-based team shows how a ferroelectric insulator can surpass shockley-queisser limit August 9th, 2016

Tiny high-performance solar cells turn power generation sideways August 5th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic