Home Science Glass-like shells of diatoms help turn light into energy in dim conditions

Glass-like shells of diatoms help turn light into energy in dim conditions

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A new optical study reveals how the glassy shells of diatoms help these single-celled organisms perform photosynthesis, even under dim conditions. , and contains holes that change the behavior of the light depending on the configuration.Credit: Santiago Bernal, McGill University

A new study reveals how the glassy shells of diatoms help these microscopic organisms carry out photosynthesis in dim conditions. , a better understanding of how light interacts could lead to improvements in solar cells, sensing devices, and optics.

calculation model Our developed toolkit paves the way for mass-manufacturable, sustainable optical devices that are more efficient light harvesting tools based on diatom Santiago Bernal, a research team member at McGill University in Canada, said:

diatoms are unicellular organism Found in most bodies of water. Their shells are covered with holes that respond differently to light depending on their size, spacing, and composition.in the journal optical materials express, researchers led by David V. Plant and Marc Andrews at McGill University report the first optical study of an entire diatom shell. They analyzed how different parts of the shell, or shells, respond to sunlight and how this response is related to photosynthesis.

“Based on our findings, we estimate that frustration may boost photosynthesis by 9.83%, especially from high to low sun,” said Yannick DiMello, lead author of the paper. It is noticeable during the transition of “Our model is the first to describe the optical behavior of the entire protoshell, thus contributing to the hypothesis that the protoshell facilitates photosynthesis in diatoms.”

The researchers combined a variety of simulation and microscopy techniques to examine each component of the shell individually. This was used to study how light interacts with structures from the moment it is captured to the moment it is likely absorbed by cells.Credit: Santiago Bernal, McGill University

Combining microscopy and simulation

Diatoms have evolved over millions of years to survive in all aquatic environments. This includes a shell made up of many areas that work together to collect sunlight. To study the optical response of diatom shells, researchers combined computer optical simulations with several microscopy techniques.

The researchers began by imaging the structure of the frustum using four high-resolution microscopy techniques. optical microscope, Atomic Force Microscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Dark Field Microscopy. These images were then used to inform a series of models we built to analyze each part of the cone via 3D simulation.

The glassy shell of diatoms helps convert light into energy in dim environments

The optical response of the diatom shell tail is shown. The image on the left shows the tapering curvature of the tail. The middle image shows the profile of the trapped light propagating longitudinally along the frustum and the right image shows the transmission spectra at various points in the tail shown in the left image. .Credit: Santiago Bernal, McGill University

Using these simulations, the researchers investigated how different colors of sunlight interact with the structure and identified three primary sunlight collection mechanisms. This approach allowed us to combine different optical aspects of frustules and show how they work together to assist photosynthesis.

“We used a variety of simulation and microscopy techniques to examine each component individually,” says D’Mello. “We then use that data to understand how light interacts with structures, from the moment light is captured, to where it is distributed afterwards, how long it is retained, to the moment it is likely to be absorbed by cells. We’ve built a study on how they interact.”

Promotion of photosynthesis

The study reveals that the wavelengths at which shells interact match those absorbed during photosynthesis, suggesting that they may have evolved to help capture sunlight. also found that different regions of the cone can redistribute light so that it is absorbed throughout the cell. This suggests that the shell evolved to maximize cellular exposure to ambient light. Their findings also showed that light circulates within frassulu long enough to support photosynthesis during the high-to-low-light transition period.

The new cone model enables the cultivation of diatom species that collect light at different wavelengths, potentially enabling customization for specific applications. “By using these light-harvesting mechanisms in diatoms to allow sunlight to be collected at more angles, we can improve the absorption of solar panels, partially reducing the dependence of panels facing directly on the sun. We can get rid of it,” Bernal said.

The researchers are now working on improving the model and plan to apply the new toolkit to the study of other species of diatoms. We then plan to extend the model beyond the interaction of light within a single frustal to investigate the behavior between multiple frustals.

Researchers say the piece commemorates colleague Dan Petrescu, who died last year. This research would not have been possible without his insight, support and dedication.

For more information:
Yannick D’Mello et al, Nitzschia filiformis Solar energy harvesting mechanism of diatom shells, optical materials express (2022). DOI: 10.1364/OME.473109

Quote: Glass-like shells of diatoms help convert light into energy in dim conditions (22 Nov 2022) https://phys.org/news/2022-11-glass-like-shells- Retrieved 22 Nov 2022 from diatoms-energy-dim.html

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