In Japan, photosynthesis requires a mechanism to produce large amounts of chemical energy without losing the oxidative power needed to break down water. A Japanese research team led by the Kobe University has clarified part of this mechanism, marking another step towards the potential development of artificial photosynthesis. The findings were published on February 27 in the online edition of The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.
The scientists extracted thylakoid membranes (where the photoreaction takes place in photosynthesis) from spinach, added a reducing agent, and irradiated the samples. This enabled them to detect microwave signals from the initial charge separation state to a degree of accuracy of a 10 millionth of a second. They developed a method of analyzing the microwave signals using spin polarization imaging. For the first time it was possible to carry out 3D view analysis of the configuration of the electric charge produced directly after exposure to light as a reactive intermediate. This was done with an accuracy to within 10 millionth of a second, as consecutive photography. Based on this visualization, they also quantified the electronic interaction that occurs when electron orbits overlap for molecules with electric charges.