What is it about?
When photosynthetic plants and bacteria absorb sunlight, their first job is to move the absorbed energy from its arrival point to specialised centres that use that energy to power the chemical reactions of photosynthesis. Photosynthetic proteins are packed with molecules (called chlorophyll) that are excellent at doing this. However, if you take the protein packaging away, the chlorophyll molecules quickly dump their absorbed energy as heat, rather than passing it to their neighbours. We look at how that energy gets lost (when the molecules aren’t in a protein) and what the protein does to stop it happening.
Photo by Kumiko SHIMIZU on Unsplash
Why is it important?
By comparing the behaviour of chlorophyll molecules in solution and in protein, we can begin to understand how the design of photosynthetic proteins makes them so well suited to their job - a small, but very important, part of how life works. Learning how nature overcomes the problem of accidentally losing useful energy could allow us to incorporate similar ideas into the design of our own solar energy technologies.
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This page is a summary of: Charge transfer as a mechanism for chlorophyll fluorescence concentration quenching, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2210811120.
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