Scientists Capture First Photo of Photosynthesis Occuring

Scientists Capture First Photo of Photosynthesis Occuring

Photo Diagram

The photo taken reveals the chemical process as it splits water into electrons, protons and oxygen.

While developing an "artificial" leaf to study alternative methods of energy production, the Arizona State University's Center for Bio-Inspired Fuel Production (Bisfuel) has taken the first pictures of photosynthesis in action. Photosynthesis is, of course, the chemical process conducted by living organisms to convert light energy into fuel that can be used to power other biological functions. "This study is the first step towards our ultimate goal of unraveling the secrets of water splitting and obtaining molecular movies of biomolecules," said Petra Fromme, the senior author of the new study.

The photo was achieved by using an X-ray laser to record snapshots of molecules as they split in the reaction- a method know as X-ray crystallography. In photosynthesis, oxygen is created at a metal site, which contains a cluster made up of four manganese atoms and one calcium atom. This cluster is the site that drives the light-driven process of water splitting. According to the study, it takes four light flashes to split one oxygen molecule from two water molecules. The X-ray bounces off the materials projects a picture.

"The trick is to use the world's most powerful X-ray laser, named LCLS, located at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory," said Fromme. "Extremely fast femtosecond (10 -15 second) laser pulses record snapshots of the PSII crystals before they explode in the X-ray beam, a principle called 'diffraction before destruction.'" However, Fromme believes there are two drawbacks to gleaning structural and dynamic information on chemical processes by using traditional X-ray crystallography: the photos obtained are static and X-ray damage affects the quality of structural information. Ultimately, researchers want to record movies on a molecular scale of water splitting during photosynthesis.

Tell us what you think in the comments.

Source: Auto World News via Nature


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I don't know about you, but part of me was hoping that this was the image that they got from photosynthesis...
image
Oh well, I guess the sciency photos are good as well. :3

In all seriousness that's a pretty cool method on how they managed to do it, but the whole "artificial leaf" thing confuses me a bit.

Interesting stuff (you might want to get your superscript on in the "10-15 seconds" bit).

It occurs to me that scientists are starting to get better at their PR - 'a photo of photosynthesis' sounds a lot more interesting than 'some X-Ray diffraction patterns'. I just wish paleontologists and anthropologists would stop trying to shoe-horn in Game of Thrones references to make themselves sound more with it.

Blackwell Stith:

According to the study, it takes four light flashes to split one oxygen molecule from two water molecules.

Should that be two Hydrogen molecules (H20) or have I just misread something?

Otherwise, this is awesome.

arsenalabu:

Blackwell Stith:

According to the study, it takes four light flashes to split one oxygen molecule from two water molecules.

Should that be two Hydrogen molecules (H20) or have I just misread something?

Otherwise, this is awesome.

H2O is a water molecule: two hydrogen atoms (H) and one oxygen (O). A hydrogen molecule (such as in hydrogen gas) would be just H2.

MetalMagpie:

arsenalabu:

Blackwell Stith:

According to the study, it takes four light flashes to split one oxygen molecule from two water molecules.

Should that be two Hydrogen molecules (H20) or have I just misread something?

Otherwise, this is awesome.

H2O is a water molecule: two hydrogen atoms (H) and one oxygen (O). A hydrogen molecule (such as in hydrogen gas) would be just H2.

"Four light flashes to split one oxygen molecule from two water molecules."

The whole process revolves around separating oxygen from water. Because oxygen doesn't have a full orbital shell, it naturally gravitates to another oxygen atom in order to achieve balance. In nature, you always find oxygen atoms in groups of 2 (unless we're talking about ozone)- making it an oxygen molecule. So, in order for this step in photosynthesis to go smoothly, it takes 2 water molecules to work.

 

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