Rutgers researchers discover how algae harness solar energy : Biofuels Digest

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In New Jersey, scientists have discovered how diatoms – a type of alga that produce 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen – harness solar energy for photosynthesis.

The Rutgers University-led discovery, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help lead to more efficient and affordable algae-based biofuels and combat climate change from fossil fuel burning.

The Rutgers-led team used a 3D bioimaging tool to reveal for the first time the architecture of the proteins known as Photosystem II that diatoms use to absorb sunlight and power their photosynthesis. They found that each cell includes two sets of these proteins, though only one set is active. The active set has a structure associated with pigment proteins, such as green chlorophyll that absorbs light, in an antenna to harvest light for photosynthesis. The inactive set lacks the antenna and does not participate in photosynthesis.

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