Lecture Details

SLAC Public Lecture Series

Past Lecture

Photosynthesis: How Plants Build the Air we Breathe - Atom by Atom

Franklin Fuller
Thursday, November 18, 2021 05:00 pm
Public Lecture poster: picture of movie
Description: 

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Over billions of years, plants and cyanobacteria changed the Earth’s atmosphere by inhaling carbon dioxide, storing the carbon in solid biomass and exhaling oxygen. Their release of oxygen into the air made animal life possible.  But how, exactly, do plants produce oxygen? Scientists have been puzzling over this for decades. In the past few years, experiments at X-ray lasers such as the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC have allowed us to follow the production of oxygen step by step and atom by atom. In this lecture, I will show a molecular movie made here at SLAC of the first half of oxygen production in cyanobacteria.  The movie reveals the amazingly complex, concerted atomic motions that nature has orchestrated to perform this essential reaction. I will discuss what we have learned about the process of oxygen production, and the mysteries that still remain.

The lecture is one hour long, followed by Q&A.

About the Speaker:

Franklin Fuller received his PhD from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2014. He studied the light gathering and initial generation of electrical charge in Photosystem II, the enzyme responsible for oxygen production in plants. He then moved to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to continue studying Photosystem II and other catalytic enzymes, using X-ray spectroscopy to investigate the “business end” where reaction products are formed. He joined SLAC in 2017 as a Panofsky Fellow. At SLAC, Franklin is developing advanced spectroscopy analysis methods tailored to X-ray laser facilities to improve their sensitivity to chemical properties, and he continues to investigate Photosystem II.

Franklin Fuller received his PhD from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 2014. He studied the light gathering and initial generation of electrical charge in Photosystem II, the enzyme responsible for oxygen production in plants. He then moved to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to continue studying Photosystem II and other catalytic enzymes, using X-ray spectroscopy to investigate the “business end” where reaction products are formed. He joined SLAC in 2017 as a Panofsky Fellow. At SLAC, Franklin is developing advanced spectroscopy analysis methods tailored to X-ray laser facilities to improve their sensitivity to chemical properties, and he continues to investigate Photosystem II.