Exploring disordered exciton landscapes in chlorosomes: a quest for spectral signatures

Vesna Eric

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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Photosynthesis is a process which involves the conversion of energy coming from sunlight to energy that serves as a powerhouse for life on Earth. The photosynthetic world is large and filled with contradictions and mysteries. For a long time, the existence of tiny organisms called green bacteria that perform photosynthesis in extremely dark conditions, like at the bottom of the sea, was a well-kept secret. Their discovery made scientists wonder about mechanisms for capturing enough scarcely incoming light and preventing unnecessary energy loss. Understanding solutions implemented in nature can inspire new artificial systems that can support the efficiency of our solar energy sources on cloudy days, too. Years of dedicated research showed the importance of chlorosomes, molecular complexes with unusual structures, for efficient light harvesting in green sulfur bacteria. Since chlorosomes are 'messy' biological systems, I worked on understanding structural irregularities (disorder) in the function of chlorosomes. I used theoretical modelling and simulations to reveal this structure-function relationship. I found that disorder in hydrogen bonding networks broadens the absorptive capacity of chlorosomes, allowing them to capture the light of different energies. Upon absorption of light, energy travels towards the dark states in 100 femtoseconds (one fs is 1000000000000000th part of the second). Dark states can not emit light, so this mechanism supports chlorosomes' triumph over energy loss. My research demonstrates how nature explores the potential of irregularities in adapting organisms to different environmental conditions and the power of physical and theoretical models to describe complex biological systems.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Jansen, Thomas, Supervisor
  • Knoester, Jasper, Supervisor
Award date4-Jun-2024
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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