A Vidi grant for the question of 'How flexible is photosynthesis?'

May 27, 2019

Emilie Wientjes has received a Vidi grant for her research into the flexibility of photosynthesis.

Chloroplasts in plants use light to make sugars. However, the intensity and colour of the light falling on a leaf varies greatly during the course of the day.

"My Vidi research will used advanced techniques to try and discover how plants adapt to this. Among other things, I will use the fluorescent properties of chlorophyll that catches the light in the chloroplasts," says Emilie.

It is simply fascinating to see the sophisticated structure of nature!

From light to photosynthesis

The energy from light powers photosynthesis, but some is always lost as fluorescence. "The more efficient a leaf uses light, the quicker the fluorescence disappears," says Emilie. "By using short laser pulses, we will know exactly when the leaf is catching the light and we can see how fast it is used for photosynthesis on a scale of a few millionths of a millionth second. This way, we can compare the natural variation in light-catching efficiency of different plant species, for example."

This knowledge may contribute to improving photosynthesis in crops. Optimisation of photosynthesis may offer solutions for food security, renewable energy and CO2 reduction.