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Chlorophyll harnessed for use in nanophotonic applications

Posted August 30, 2013
Chlorophyll harnessed for use in nanophotonic applications

Chlorophyll harnessed for use in nanophotonic applications
In plants (Figure 1) chlorophylls are bound to protein complexes, which then steer the organisation of chlorophylls in the structure. Although, the structure may look relatively chaotic from the outside, it is optimised for the photosynthetic process.

Researchers from Aalto University and the University of Helsinki are developing nanostructures in which chlorophylls are bound to synthetic materials. Chlorophyll is a true gift of nature to photonics, as it absorbs the wavelengths of blue and red colour from sunlight very efficiently.

The research project utilises chlorophyll extracted from green plants. Docent Juho Helaja’s research group at the University of Helsinki has extracted chlorophyll from such sources as spinach and cyanobacteria.

Chlorophylls require tailoring

It is not enough to merely extract chlorophyll molecules and place them in a test tube. It is essential to tailor molecules, i.e. modify them chemically into such a form that their functionality can be utilised in a non-biological environment. Doctoral Candidate Taru Nikkonen from the Department of Chemistry of the University of Helsinki is responsible for the extraction of chlorophyll derivatives from natural materials, as well as their synthetic modification.

The properties of modified chlorophylls can be controlled by altering the pigments’ volume and concentration in polymer matrices. The interaction between the molecules is dependent on the distance between molecules, which has a great influence on excitation dynamics of the molecules.

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