The physics of photosynthetic light harvesting

structure of light harvesting complex II membrane protein

On May 27-28 at the Kavli Royal Society Centre, I attended a stimulating conference on the microphysics and evolutionary adaptations that have resulted in the ability of plants and photobacteria to harvest energy from the sun. A corresponding focus of this area of research is on what aeons of natural evolution might teach humans as we attempt to engineer nano-materials to address our own planetary energy needs in an increasingly post-carbon economy. Chemical physicists who gave talks and with whom I had previous familiarity included Graham Fleming (UC Berkeley) and Greg Scholes (Toronto). And there were a number of other talks from biologists and materials physicists, including Seth Lloyd (MIT) and Richard Cogdell (Glasgow)… a recent review in Science touches on many of the issues in this fascinating and important research arena.

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