New York: The next time you buy spinach to give you strength, think about your car.
Yes, spinach holds the promise of a different power for scientists - the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient and alternative fuel source. Researchers from Purdue and Arizona Universities extracted a protein complex from spinach called Photosystem-II. Once the proteins were carefully extracted, the team excited them with a laser and recorded changes in the electron configuration of their molecules.
These proteins required light to work so the laser acted as the Sun in this experiment. Once the proteins started working, researchers used advanced techniques like electron paramagnetic resonance and X-ray spectroscopy to observe how the electronic structure of the molecules changes over time as they performed their functions.
"The proteins we study are part of the most efficient system ever built, capable of converting energy from the Sun into chemical energy with an unrivalled 60 percent efficiency," explained Yulia Pushkar from Purdue University.
"Understanding this system is indispensable for alternative energy research aiming to create artificial photosynthesis," she added. Artificial photosynthesis could allow for the conversion of solar energy into renewable, environment-friendly hydrogen-based fuels, researchers noted in the journal Nature.