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Photonic multilayer structure of Begonia chloroplasts enhances photosynthetic efficiency

Jacobs, M and Lopez-Garcia, M and Phrathep, OP and Lawson, T and Oulton, R and Whitney, HM (2016) 'Photonic multilayer structure of Begonia chloroplasts enhances photosynthetic efficiency.' Nature Plants, 2. ISSN 2055-0278

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Abstract

Enhanced light harvesting is an area of interest for optimizing both natural photosynthesis and artificial solar energy capture . Iridescence has been shown to exist widely and in diverse forms in plants and other photosynthetic organisms and symbioses , but there has yet to be any direct link demonstrated between iridescence and photosynthesis. Here we show that epidermal chloroplasts, also known as iridoplasts, in shade-dwelling species of Begonia , notable for their brilliant blue iridescence, have a photonic crystal structure formed from a periodic arrangement of the light-absorbing thylakoid tissue itself. This structure enhances photosynthesis in two ways: by increasing light capture at the predominantly green wavelengths available in shade conditions, and by directly enhancing quantum yield by 5-10% under low-light conditions. These findings together imply that the iridoplast is a highly modified chloroplast structure adapted to make best use of the extremely low-light conditions in the tropical forest understorey in which it is found . A phylogenetically diverse range of shade-dwelling plant species has been found to produce similarly structured chloroplasts , suggesting that the ability to produce chloroplasts whose membranes are organized as a multilayer with photonic properties may be widespread. In fact, given the well-established diversity and plasticity of chloroplasts , our results imply that photonic effects may be important even in plants that do not show any obvious signs of iridescence to the naked eye but where a highly ordered chloroplast structure may present a clear blue reflectance at the microscale. Chloroplasts are generally thought of as purely photochemical; we suggest that one should also think of them as a photonic structure with a complex interplay between control of light propagation, light capture and photochemistry. 1,2 3,4 5 5,6 7-9 10,11

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QK Botany
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Life Sciences, School of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2016 11:06
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2021 00:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/18303

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