Photosynthesis – the enzyme-based process of converting carbon dioxide into food, using water and sunlight – is literally the foundation of life on Earth, and understanding the reaction at an atomic level could lead to vast production of renewable fuels made from greenhouse gases sucked out of the air. A Berkeley Lab team has been uncovering precise, step-by-step details of photosynthesis for years. We spoke to two members, co-lead author and senior scientist Vittal Yachandra and co-first author and postdoctoral researcher Philipp Simon, about their latest study, shooting stuff with lasers, and why they chose this field.
Using a unique combination of nanoscale imaging and chemical analysis, an international team of researchers has revealed a key step in the molecular mechanism behind the water splitting reaction of photosynthesis, a finding that could help inform the design of renewable energy technology.
Fossil fuels are the lifeblood of modern societies, but their increased use releases carbon dioxide, a climate-warming greenhouse gas, faster than plants can recycle it via photosynthesis. Now, a powerful combination of experiment and theory has revealed atomic-level details about how silver helps transform carbon dioxide gas into a reusable form. The results, reported in
Researchers at Berkeley Lab have used one of the most advanced microscopes in the world to reveal the structure of a large protein complex crucial to photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into cellular energy. The finding, published in the journal Nature, will allow scientists to explore, for the first time, how the complex functions and could have implications for the production of a variety of bioproducts, including plastic alternatives and biofuels.
The average global energy consumption of transportation fuels is currently several terawatts (1 terawatt = 1012 Joule per second). A major scientific gap for developing a solar fuels technology that could replace fossil resources with renewable ones is scalability at the unprecedented terawatts level. In fact, the only existing technology for making chemical compounds on the
Berkeley Lab researchers have identified a protein that protects plants from damage caused by too much light energy. They found that plants with deficient levels of the lipocalin protein, found in chloroplasts, are less able to dissipate excess light energy.
Berkeley Lab scientists have developed a new electrocatalyst that can directly convert carbon dioxide into multicarbon fuels and alcohols using record-low inputs of energy. The work is the latest in a round of studies coming out of Berkeley Lab tackling the challenge of a creating a clean chemical manufacturing system that can put carbon dioxide to good use.
A new study led by a Berkeley Lab research scientist highlights a literally shady practice in plant science that has in some cases underestimated plants’ rate of growth and photosynthesis, among other traits.
An international team of scientists is providing new insight into the process by which plants use light to split water and create oxygen. In experiments led by Berkeley Lab scientists, ultrafast X-ray lasers were able to capture atomic-scale images of a protein complex found in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria at room temperature.
Berkeley and Illinois researchers have bumped up crop productivity by as much as 20 percent by increasing the expression of genes that result in more efficient use of light in photosynthesis. Their work could potentially be used to help address the world’s future food needs.