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A Single Photon can Kick the Process of Photosynthesis

By: Justin Zhao

Studies in biology show that one photon can disrupt the process of photosynthesis.

Plants, algae, and bacteria are all examples of creatures that perform the process of photosynthesis to make energy. Photosynthesis is a process that can turn sunlight into chemical energy that the organism can use. Zooming into light shows it is made of photons or light particles. Normally, one photon could spark photosynthesis. However, recent science in 2023 shows that it is more complex than that.

In a recent experiment, scientists in an unknown university used a light source that only can make two photons simultaneously. They noticed that one photon flew off a detector in the experiment. Scientists think that the second photon made its way into the light-absorbing parts of the bacteria Rhodobacter Sphaeroides and it can photosynthesize. The bacterium’s light-absorbing structures are called LH2. Every LH2 protein always contains two rings of special molecules.

Normally, when the photon gets absorbed, the bacteria would convert the energy into the energy it can use. However, the bacteria gave off a third photon in the new experiment. This photon was a different photon than the one it absorbed. When scientists analyzed the third photon to the first one, it showed that the second photon knocked off photosynthesis.

Other plants and bacteria do photosynthesis differently. However, studies from the University of California at Berkeley show photons can also start plant photosynthesis.

Cogdell is a biochemist in Scotland at the University of Glasgow.

“The role of single photons isn’t surprising,” Cogdell said.


Many similar experiments that use lasers have shown promising results. The scientist used lasers as normally only a couple of photons hit a plant or bacteria.

“You can really work out what’s happening in the early reactions in photosynthesis,” Cogdell said. “[ It’s as if ]you could shrink yourself down and watch these photons moving around.”As we learn more about this topic, the more the community understands photosynthesis.

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