Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have gained the first detailed insight into the way circadian rhythms govern global gene expression in Cyanothece, a type of cyanobacterium (blue-green alga) known to cycle between photosynthesis during the day and nitrogen fixation at night.
In general, this study shows that during the day, Cyanothece increases expression of genes governing photosynthesis and sugar production, as expected. At night, however, Cyanothece ramps up the expression of genes governing a surprising number of vital processes, including energy metabolism, nitrogen fixation, respiration, the translation of messenger RNA (mRNA) to proteins, and the folding of these proteins into proper configurations.
The findings have implications down the road for energy production and storage of clean, alternative biofuels. … Continue Reading »
Imagine a technology that would not only provide a green and renewable source of electrical energy, but could also help scrub the atmosphere of excessive carbon dioxide resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. That’s the promise of artificial versions of photosynthesis, the process by which green plants have been converting solar energy into electrochemical energy for millions of years. To get there, however, scientists need a far better understanding of how Nature does it, starting with the harvesting of sunlight and the transporting of this energy to electrochemical reaction centers.
Graham Fleming, a physical chemist who holds joint appointments with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, is the leader of an ongoing effort to discover how plants are able to transfer energy through a network of pigment-protein complexes with nearly 100-percent efficiency. In previous studies, he and his research group used a laser-based technique they developed called two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy to track the flow of excitation energy through both time and space. Now, for the first time, they’ve been able to connect that flow to energy-transferring functions by providing direct experimental links between atomic and electronic structures in pigment-protein complexes. … Continue Reading »
Some of the oxygen we breathe today is being produced because of viruses infecting micro-organisms in the world’s oceans, scientists heard today (Wednesday 2 April 2008) at the Society for General Microbiology’s 162nd meeting being held this week at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. … Continue Reading »
Jülich scientists have made an important step on the long road to artificially mimicking photosynthesis. They were able to synthesise a stable inorganic metal oxide cluster, which enables the fast and effective oxidation of water to oxygen. This is reported by the German high-impact journal “Angewandte Chemie” in a publication rated as a VIP (“very important paper”). Artificial photosynthesis may decisively contribute to solving energy and climate problems, if researchers find a way to efficiently produce hydrogen with the aid of solar energy.Hydrogen is regarded as the energy carrier of the future. The automobile industry, for example, is working hard to introduce fuel cell technology starting in approximately 2010. However, a fuel cell drive system can only be really environmentally friendly, if researchers succeed in producing hydrogen from renewable sources. Artificial photosynthesis, i.e. the splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen with the aid of sunlight, could be an elegant way of solving this problem. … Continue Reading »
I was reading this article and I thought: what if bacteria could designed with every sunlight-capturing pigments —this rare form of chlorophyll, “green” chlorophyll, beta-carotene, etc.— to capture the widest possible light spectrum? It would be able to convert an absurd proportion of sunlight energy into chemical energy. If this was coupled with an up-regulation of the fatty acid synthesis pathway, then these bacteria would be used to directly convert light energy into oil at a very high efficiency.
Unlike existing plant alternatives, the raw bacteria oil would be a transportable, near-end product that would save us from having to invest in an extensive new refining and transportation infrastructure. Even better, the bacteria could be hypothetically grown anywhere: massive hydroponic plants in the desert, miniature hydroponic tiles on buildings, even on Antarctic ice or quarantined open ocean.
Certainly, this bacteria would be far more efficient than terribly energy-inefficient, agriculturally-exhaustive corn ethanol or dangerous, difficult-to-transport hydrogen.