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Rensselaer researchers to map step-by-step mechanism of photosynthesis
Date:12/3/2013

Troy, N.Y. With support from the Photosynthetic Systems Division at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), researchers in the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are expanding a successful research program to uncover the minute workings of the photosynthetic protein, Photosystem II. The high-impact research, led by professor K.V. Lakshmi, seeks to adapt photosynthesis for artificial use as an abundant source of renewable energy.

"I think of Photosystem II as the 'engine of life,'" said Lakshmi, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and scientific lead at the Baruch '60 Center for Biochemical Solar Energy Research at Rensselaer. "Photosystem II powers the planet with solar energy. If there is a design that is perfect for harnessing the energy of the sun, this is it. And we want to use nature as a blueprint to design a new generation of bio-inspired solar cells that builds on the efficient design principles of nature."

Photosystem II, found in plants and cyanobacteria, uses photons of light to break apart molecules of water, extracting electrons to fuel the photosynthetic conversion of light and water into chemical energy for cellular functions. This reaction solar oxidation of water takes place in a cluster of oxygen, manganese, and calcium ions called the "oxygen-evolving complex." The oxygen-evolving complex uses four photons of light to split two molecules of water in five distinct steps known as "S-states." Each intermediate S-state, numbered from S-0 to S-4, is measured in trillionths of a second, and the final three S-states are highly unstable, making it difficult to determine the exact mechanism by which they occur. In research published in 2012, and supported by the DOE, Lakshmi and her team used advanced spectroscopic techniques to describe the exact atomic-level mechanism of S-2, the third step in the process.

The new $500,000, three-year DOE grant expands the scope of Lakshmi's research t
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Contact: Mary Martialay
martim12@rpi.edu
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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