Navigation Links
In plant photosynthesis, scientists see clues for improving solar energy cells
Date:11/22/2013

Solar cells optimized to suit local light conditions, or made more efficient by using a broader part of the solar spectrum, are among the imaginative applications foreseen from ground-breaking new insights into plant photosynthesis pioneered in Canada.

Indeed new, more fully detailed knowledge of how plants and other living organisms convert sunlight into energy and carbon dioxide into biomass may offer clues to addressing both the global energy crisis and global warming, says Dr. Gregory Scholes, among the world's most renowned scientists in plant photosynthesis.

Dr. Scholes, distinguished professor of Chemistry at the University of Toronto and 2012 recipient of the John C. Polanyi Award from Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), will describe his work in a special public lecture Nov. 26 supported by the Royal Canadian Institute (RCI) for the Advancement of Science, NSERC, and Toronto's Ryerson University.

"This new bio-inspired understanding will help scientists devise artificial light gathering systems that can far exceed existing solar cells in functionality, and so pave the way to new, environmentally-friendly energy technologies," says Dr. Scholes.

"We can imagine, for example, solar cells that optimize themselves to suit the local light conditions or that make better use of the solar spectrum by efficiently capturing and processing light of different colours."

Studies of nature's "photosynthetic machines" have involved such organisms as fronds in kelp forests (which can grow 15 cm - 6 inches - in a single day), algae growing 20 meters - 60 feet - underwater even in winter when over 1 metre of ice covers the water - and bacteria from the South Andros Black Hole, Bahamas, which have evolved to short circuit photosynthetic light harvesting and thereby warm their local environment.

All have helped science identify some fascinating chemical physics and determine that a chain of reactions involved in photosynthesis starts with hundreds of light-absorbing molecules that harvest sunlight and 'concentrate' the fleetingly stored energy at a biological solar cell called a "reaction center."

And that happens with incredible speed. After sunlight is absorbed, the energy is trapped at reaction centers in about one billionth of a second.

New understanding of the photosynthetic process can also help alleviate the biggest looming threat to humanity -- climate change -- since photosynthesis makes use of the sun's energy to convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into useful biomass.

More than 10 quadrillion photons of light strike a leaf each second. Incredibly, almost every visible photon (those with wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers -- 1 nm equalling 1 billionth of a metre) is captured by pigments and initiates the steps of plant growth.

Says Dr. Scholes: "Photosynthetic solar energy conversion occurs on an immense scale across the Earth, influencing our biosphere from climate to oceanic food webs. Energy from sunlight is absorbed by brightly coloured molecules, like chlorophyll, embedded in proteins comprising the photosynthetic unit."

"While photosynthesis does not generate electricity from light, like a solar cell, it produces energy - a "solar fuel" - stored in molecules," he adds. "Solar powered production of complex molecules is foreseen as an important contribution to energy management in the future."

Concludes Dr. Scholes: "Nature has worked out with astonishing efficiency some the riddles of fundamental importance that vex our species today," he adds. "If we are hunting for inspiration, we should keep our eyes open for the unexpected and learn from the natural sciences."


'/>"/>

Contact: Terry Collins
tc@tca.tc
416-538-8712
Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. LSUHSC research finds combo of plant nutrients kills breast cancer cells
2. Plant fuel project moves to second phase under US Energy Department grant
3. Plant cell architecture: Growth toward a light source
4. Burning biomass pellets instead of wood or plants in China could lower mercury emissions
5. Carbon storage recovers faster than plant biodiversity in re-growing tropical forests
6. Crafting a better enzyme cocktail to turn plants into fuel faster
7. Nanotube-based sensors can be implanted under the skin for a year
8. Plant production could decline as climate change affects soil nutrients
9. Simple plants arent always easy: Revision of the liverwort Radula buccinifera complex
10. The secret math of plants: UCLA biologists uncover rules that govern leaf design
11. Angel or demon: Can a potentially invasive plant bring a positive influence to a region?
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/5/2017)... NEW YORK , April 5, 2017 ... security, is announcing that the server component of the ... is known for providing the end-to-end security architecture that ... customers. HYPR has already secured over 15 ... system makers including manufacturers of connected home product suites ...
(Date:4/3/2017)...  Data captured by IsoCode, IsoPlexis Corporation,s ... statistically significant association between the potency of ... objective response of cancer patients post-treatment. The ... cancer patients will respond to CAR-T cell ... to improve both pre-infusion potency testing and cell ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... , March 30, 2017 Trends, opportunities ... (physiological and behavioral), by technology (fingerprint, AFIS, iris recognition, ... recognition, and others), by end use industry (government and ... immigration, financial and banking, and others), and by region ... , Asia Pacific , and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... Lithuania, announced today that they have entered into a multiyear collaboration to identify ... CRISPR researchers with additional tools for gene editing across all applications. , Under ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... AMRI, ... and biotechnology industries to improve patient outcomes and quality of life, will now ... testing are being attributed to new regulatory requirements for all new drug products, ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... in its endogenous context, enabling overexpression experiments and avoiding the use of exogenous ... RNA guides is transformative for performing systematic gain-of-function studies. , This complement ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... today it will be hosting a Webinar titled, “Pathology is going digital. Is ... , on digital pathology adoption best practices and how Proscia improves lab economics ...
Breaking Biology Technology: