Friday, 2 December 2016

New Snapshots of Photosynthesis Captured by SLAC’s X-ray Laser

Published on Nov 22, 2016

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The machinery responsible for photosynthesis – while commonplace and essential to life on Earth – is still not fully understood. One of its molecular mysteries involves how a protein complex, photosystem II, harvests energy from light and uses it to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The process generates the oxygen in the air that we breathe.

New X-ray methods at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have captured the first detailed image of this protein complex at room temperature, which allows scientists to closely watch how water is split during photosynthesis at the temperature at which it occurs naturally. The research team took the images using the bright, fast pulses of light at SLAC’s X-ray free-electron laser – the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

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