How plants expand their capacity to use solar energy

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | February 07, 2019

Green plants capture light that spans the visible solar spectrum, and while a broad spectral range is required for sufficient absorption, the process requires energy to be funneled rapidly and efficiently downhill to drive charge separation and water splitting. Carotenoids, the accessory pigments in photosynthesis, play light harvesting, photoprotective, and structural roles. Understanding these roles, however, has proved to be a challenge due to the fact that carotenoid's energetics are highly sensitive to their environment. Now a team led by Thomas D. and Virginia W. Cabot Career Development Assistant Professor Gabriela Schlau-Cohen has discovered that a single carotenoid—LHCII—in the major antenna complex of green plants serves as the nexus of light harvesting by accumulating energy and transferring it through a debated dark state. This photophysics reveals how plants expand their capacity to capture and utilize solar energy. "Solar energy devices must absorb a large fraction of the solar spectrum—i.e., many different energies or colors—to be competitive with fossil fuels," says Minjung Son, a graduate student in Schlau-Cohen's lab and one of the authors of a paper on the research. "Absorption of these energies comes with a challenge: How can the high energy be funneled down to the low energy, which is what is used to produce electricity and eventually biomass?"

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As South Shore Health System sought to differentiate their care strategy for new mothers, they faced the challenge of establishing a consistent message across referring physicians as well as misinformation on social media. A branded mobile app allowed them to engage patients early, often, and directly relieving physician responsibilities while offering a more complete picture of what to expect.

Spotlight

As South Shore Health System sought to differentiate their care strategy for new mothers, they faced the challenge of establishing a consistent message across referring physicians as well as misinformation on social media. A branded mobile app allowed them to engage patients early, often, and directly relieving physician responsibilities while offering a more complete picture of what to expect.

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