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Photosynthesis in nano-seconds

Research into photosynthesis finds new, quick reactions that match the speed of a computer making a single flop.

Subunits in a cellular photosynthetic reaction center Arizona State University

Man-made supercomputers are fast. Photosynthetic bacteria are just as fast.

Arizona State University researchers have learned that, during photosynthesis, bacteria may realign crucial proteins very quickly. This allows the bacteria to capture nearly every photon of available light. How quickly? A millionth of a millionth of a second, about the same time it takes for a supercomputer to carry out a single flop. To make measurements in such tiny time scales, the scientists used an ultrafast laser facility.

Moving those proteins around rapidly allows the bacteria to capture most of the potential energy in their biological circuitry. Thus, photosynthesis can take place under less than perfect conditions.

The research teams will continue to analyze and study the crucial protein movement and the role it plays in photosynthesis.