Cottrell Scholar Awards - 2016
Exciton Energy Transfer in Light Harvesting Proteins with Covalently Bound Pigments: The Role of Molecular Vibrations
Plants certainly know what they’re doing.
Light-harvesting complexes (LHCs) – molecules of proteins and chlorophylls -- serving as “antennas” are responsible for the absorption and concentration of solar energy in plants, followed by energy transfer to “reaction centers” where the energy of light is converted into chemical energy with nearly 100 percent efficiency.
Dmytro Kosenkov, assistant professor of chemistry at Monmouth University, is investigating the efficiency of energy transfer in light-harvesting complexes (LHC) of plants.
His theory is that molecular vibrations amplify the energy transfer through quantum coherence effects. Namely, the vibrations of light-absorbing pigments, due to their strong bonding to the rest of the LHC, assist synchronous (coherent) transfer of solar energy occurring in the LHC.
Kosenkov and his students will use novel computational methods based on a combination of quantum and molecular mechanics to obtain detailed atomistic descriptions of the key mechanisms of energy transfer in phycoerythrin (a red protein-pigment complex) and related LHCs.
“The significance of the project is in laying the foundations for designing new efficient photovoltaics capable of vibrationally assisted energy transfer,” he said.
For the education component of the Cottrell Scholar Award, Kosenkov intends to revamp physical chemistry laboratory courses at Monmouth University by embedding original research projects into the curriculum. He aims to encourage critical thinking by students, build problem-solving skills, and promote deeper understanding of chemical phenomena.