When sunlight shining on a leaf changes rapidly, plants must protect themselves from the ensuing sudden surges of solar energy.
When sunlight shining on a leaf changes rapidly, plants must protect themselves from the ensuing sudden surges of solar energy. To cope with these changes, photosynthetic organisms — from plants to bacteria — have developed numerous tactics. Scientists have been unable, however, to identify the underlying design principle.
An international team of scientists, led by physicist Nathaniel M. Gabor at the University of California, Riverside, has now constructed a model that reproduces a general feature of photosynthetic light harvesting, observed across many photosynthetic organisms.
Light harvesting is the collection of solar energy by protein-bound chlorophyll molecules. In photosynthesis — the process by which green plants and some other organisms use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water — light energy harvesting begins with sunlight absorption.
The researchers’ model borrows ideas from the science of complex networks, a field of study that explores efficient operation in cellphone networks, brains, and the power grid. The model describes a simple network that is able to input light of two different colors, yet output a steady rate of solar power. This unusual choice of only two inputs has remarkable consequences.
Read more at University of California – Riverside