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light harvesting

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Many bacteria use sunlight as an energy source. The energy gained from a solar ray absorbed by a molecule, however, lasts only for a very short time (a mere 0.000000001 seconds!) before it dissipates away and is lost. Within this short time, machinery in the bacterial cell must store the light energy in a longer-lasting form so that it can be used later. A series of reviews describes how bacteria exploit quantum physics to bottle the energy of sunlight for a sufficiently long time to fully utilize it. In a first review we introduce the light harvesting systems of bacteria and their key molecular components, in particular the role of chlorophylls. In a second review we describe how thousands of chlorophylls cooperate to transport the short lived energy of absorbed light to the centers where the energy is converted into a more stable form, namely that of a voltage difference across the bacterial cell wall. In a third review we explain how quantum physics enhances this process of energy transport in bacteria (see also our video). In a fourth review we describe how the individual components of this system come together into their overall organization. More information about the machinery and process of photosynthesis can be found here and about the physics of energy transfer in photosynthesis here.