Harvesting solar power through plants or other organisms that would be genetically altered with the chlorophyll d gene could make them solar power factories that generate and store solar energy. Consider a seven-foot tall corn plant genetically tailored with the chlorophyll d gene to be expressed at the very base of the stalk. While the rest of the plant synthesized chlorophyll a, absorbing short wave light, the base is absorbing red edge light in the 710 nanometer range. Energy could be stored in the base without competing with any other part of the plant for photosynthesis, as the rest only makes chlorophyll a. Also, the altered corn using the chlorophyll d gene could become a super plant because of its enhanced ability to harness energy from the sun.
That model is similar to how Acaryochloris marina actually operates in the South Pacific, specifically Australias Great Barrier Reef. Discovered just 11 years ago, the cyanobacterium lives in a symbiotic relationship with a sponge-like marine animal popularly called a sea squirt . The Acaryochloris marina lives beneath the sea squirt, which is a marine animal that lives attached to rocks just below the surface of the water. The cyanobacterium absorbs red edge light through the tissues of its pal the sea squirt.
The genome, said Blankenship, is fat and happy. Acaryochloris marina lies down there using that far red light that no one else can use. The organism has never been under very strong selection pressure to be lean and mean like other bacteria are. Its kind of in a sweet spot. Living in this environment is what allowed it
|Contact: Robert Blankenship|
Washington University in St. Louis