Eco Factor: Chlorophyll molecules in green bacteria that could be used to build artificial photosynthetic systems in the future.
A research paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explores new horizons for harnessing solar energy. A team of researchers, including members from the Leiden Institute of Chemistry and the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute in the Netherlands, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, has found green bacteria that contain structures called chlorosomes, which contain up to 250,000 chlorophylls. According to this research these chlorophylls have the incredible capability of capturing light energy and rapidly delivering it to where it needs to go. This very characteristic might one day lead to the invention of artificial photosynthetic systems to harness energy from the sun. These bacteria are mostly found in dark regions like in the light-deprived regions of hot springs and at depths of 100 meters in the Black Sea. This might have been the reason, scientists speculate, behind the evolution of genes with a capability of absorbing energy from even a single photon that approaches to these bacteria.
To determine the internal structure, they identified the larger distance constraints for the chromosoms, and to find the structure of the chlorosome’s component chlorophyll molecules, the team used cryo-electron microscopy, NMR spectroscopy and concluded that the energy in an individual photon visits a smaller number of chlorophylls due to which the energy reaches faster to where it needs to go. Taking assembly of the chlorophylls in these green bacteria as a base, better models for artificial photosynthetic systems can be prepared easily. However, the team is still not completely clear about the whole phenomena, but hopes to get to the root of it very soon.