Richard Sayre’s Latest Research on Improving Photosynthesis

Richard Sayre’s Latest Research on Improving Photosynthesis

Dr. Richard Sayre and his team of scientists at the New Mexico Consortium, has his research on improving photosynthesis featured in Research Features in an article titled “Optimising the photosynthetic efficiency in plants and green algae for biomass production“.

During photosynthesis, plants and green algae absorb light from the sun at a very fast rate. This process enables plants to trap carbon dioxide and convert it into biomass. Unfortunately the plant’s light harvesting apparatus responsible for converting the solar energy into a stream of electrons works at a considerably slower pace, meaning up to 75% of the energy captured will be wasted in the form or heat or fluorescence.

This low thermodynamic efficiency of photosynthesis is a major limitation for plants. Fortunately, Dr. Sayre and his team have shown through their research that the thermodynamic efficiency of photosynthesis can be increased in bio-engineered photosynthetic organisms by altering the size of the light-harvesting antenna complex (LHC).

Engineering algae and plants to optimize light utilization means improved crop yields. This could improve agriculture worldwide and would contribute to food security since less land would be needed for increased production of crops. One plant Dr. Sayre’s team has successfully engineered, Camelina sativa, has the potential to be a promising biofuel feedstock. Another promising use of engineered algae is for carbon sequestration due to the microalgae’s ability to capture CO2 from ponds, thus mitigating the global consequences of excess CO2 in the atmosphere.

To read the entire Research Features article and learn more about Dr. Sayre’s work see: “Optimising the photosynthetic efficiency in plants and green algae for biomass production”

Image above shows organization of the light-harvesting antenna: The peripheral light-harvesting antenna binds 75% of all chlorophyll (Chl a and Chl b) but 100% of the chlorophyll b. Blocking Chl b synthesis destabilises light-harvesting antenna complexes resulting in a reduction in peripheral light-harvesting antenna size.