Scientists have been studying plant photosynthesis for centuries, but an international team has unlocked new secrets in nature’s great machine that could revolutionize sustainable fuels and combat climate change. I believe that
The team says it determined it would be possible to extract the charge at the highest possible point of photosynthesis. means to collect the electrons of It can also improve the development of biofuels. Although still in its early stages, findings reported in the journal Nature may provide insights into reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and improving solar panels.
A key breakthrough came when researchers observed the process of photosynthesis on ultrafast timescales.
Dr. Tommi Bakey of Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory said, “Because we can take pictures at different times, we can see changes in the sample very quickly. It’s a million times faster than an iPhone.” ” says.
The team used a technique called ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy. This can be most easily understood as shining a laser pulse onto the sample and recording what happens over a very short interval. This allows us to see how electrons move throughout the photosynthetic process.
In previous demonstrations, cyanobacteria, algae, and other plants were connected to electrodes to create so-called biophotoelectrochemical cells that harness the photosynthetic process to generate electricity.
At the start of the process, Baikie said he was surprised to discover a previously unknown energy flow pathway that could potentially extract charge in a more efficient manner.
“We depend on plants for everything we eat and for all the air we breathe, and they may be available for their electrons as well.”
Scientists have discovered that the place in the cell where photosynthesis begins is “leaking” electrons. In nature, this can protect plants from the harmful parts of sunlight.
The discovery of new leaky pathways could also have a major impact on the production of renewable biofuels, usually derived from plants and algae. Biofuels can be carbon neutral because plants absorb carbon dioxide as they grow and release it into the atmosphere when they burn. How much carbon dioxide biofuel adds or subtracts from the atmosphere depends on how plants are grown and how the fuel is produced.
This research can be used to develop more efficient processes for making biofuels.
“It’s a whole new approach to biofuel production. We’re collecting electrons from the earliest strong points of photosynthesis and rerouting them there,” says Jenny, also a research coordinator at Cambridge. Dr Zhang said in an email.
Zhang says other researchers have tried to acquire electrons from the early stages of the photosynthetic process, but have concluded that it is not possible. She says she was initially convinced the team had made a mistake.
“It took me a while to convince myself that I did,” Chan said in a statement.
This breakthrough promises to further harness the incredible efficiency of photosynthesis in converting sunlight into energy.
“What’s really special about photosynthesis is that it’s almost 100% efficient at converting light into electrons,” Baikie explains. “By understanding the mechanisms of photosynthesis, we can use this knowledge to improve existing solar cell technology.”
In addition to generating energy more efficiently, fine-tuning photosynthesis could also allow plants to better absorb and store carbon dioxide, helping fight climate change in the process. increase.
Zhang envisions a future where photosynthesis can be harnessed to “generate energy in the same way that food is grown,” but in a way like cyanobacteria that don’t have to compete with food production. done through living organisms.
In fact, she says the new insights from this study could actually give crops a boost by increasing their tolerance to intense sunlight.
“In the long term, if renewable energy and fuels can be self-generated, self-recycled and generated from living materials, it will be one of the greenest options imaginable for sustainability.”