Until now, we have learned that all plants on Earth make the use of green pigment, chlorophyll-a for their photosynthetic process. In this universally accepted type of photosynthesis, this green pigment is the one which absorbs light. The energy from the absorbed light is then used in making essential biochemicals required for the plant metabolism.

All the plant’s species on the Earth, including the algae and cyanobacteria, consists of this green pigment, chlorophyll-a. The energy from the red light absorbed by chlorophyll-a sets the ‘red limit’ for photosynthesis. This red limit is defined as the minimum amount of energy that is required to perform the chemistry involved in the synthesis of oxygen. The red limit finds its primary application in the field of astrobiology. Here in astrobiology, the red limit focuses on the research of presence of complicated life on other planets within our solar system.

Interestingly, when the cyanobacteria are grown in the proximity of near-infrared light, the operating mechanism of the standard chlorophyll-a containing systems shuts down their activity. In place of this standard chlorophyll-a containing systems, different chlorophyll containing system takes over. This new system possesses chlorophyll-f. Until now, the study focused on the use of chlorophyll-f as a harvester of light. However, the new research study unveils the vital role of chlorophyll-f in photosynthesis under shaded conditions. Here the chlorophyll-f utilizes the infrared light of lower energy, to perform the complex chemical reactions. This photosynthesis occurs ‘beyond the red limit.’

Bill Rutherford conveys, “The new form of photosynthesis made us rethink what we thought was possible. It also changes how we understand the key events at the heart of standard photosynthesis. This is textbook changing stuff.” Bill Rutherford is the researcher of the study and a professor at Imperial under Life Sciences Department.
The discovery marks its presence in the journal Science.