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Rensselaer scientists unlock some key secrets of photosynthesis
Date:7/2/2012

Troy, N.Y. New research led by chemists in the Baruch '60 Center for Biochemical Solar Energy Research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is seeking to detail the individual steps of highly efficient reactions that convert sunlight into chemical energy within plants and bacteria.

In a paper published in the recent edition [DOI:10.1039/C2EE21210B] of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Energy & Environmental Science, the scientists led by K. V. Lakshmi, Rensselaer assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology and scientific lead at the Baruch '60 Center have provided important information on a specific portion of the photosynthetic process called photosystem II. It has been a major challenge to directly observe the individual steps of the solar water-splitting reaction that takes place in photosystem II, Lakshmi said. This finding provides new foundational research into how plants efficiently convert energy from the sun and could help inform the development of a new, highly robust, and more efficient generation of solar-energy technologies.

Lakshmi was joined in the research by Rensselaer students Sergey Milikisyants, Ruchira Chatterjee, and Christopher Coates, as well as Faisal H.M. Koua and Professor Jian-Ren Shen of Okayama University in Japan. The research is funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, U.S. Department of Energy.

"The photosynthetic system of plants is nature's most elaborate nanoscale biological machine," said Lakshmi. "It converts light energy at unrivaled efficiency of more than 95 percent compared to 10 to 15 percent in the current man-made solar technologies. In order to capture that efficiency in solar energy technology, we must first tackle the basic science of photosynthesis by understanding the chemistry behind its ultra-efficient energy conversion process in nature."

The new research focuses on the first of two photochemical reactions that plants use to convert solar ener
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Contact: Mary Martialay
martim12@rpi.edu
518-276-2146
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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