While many teams of researchers have studied the way photosynthesis takes place in different plants, algae and bacteria, this work looked at the underlying quantum-mechanical processes and calculated how a variety of different variables affected the efficiency of the system, Cao says. “We think we have a very general picture of it now, that can be used for optimal design” of new, synthetic light-harvesting systems. This could allow fine-tuning of the timescales, temperatures and molecular configurations to get the maximum energy output from a given amount of sunlight. The search for general optimization in light-harvesting systems is currently being pursued by several other groups, including those of MIT professor of mechanical engineering Seth Lloyd, Alan Aspuru-Guzik of Harvard University, and Martin Plenio of Ulm, Germany.
Aspuru-Guzik is also probing the quantum effects at the heart of photosynthesis in the hopes of developing cheaper and more efficient organic photovoltaics.--Neil Savage
Aspuru-Guzik | Dr. Joaquin Barroso's Blog
The synthetic circuit built by Aspuru-Guzik, Schlau-Cohen and their fellow authors organizes molecules to form a supramolecular structure where energy gets delocalized or shared across the entire structure.