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Despite being discovered almost 300 ago, photosynthesis still holds many unanswered questions for science, particularly the way that proteins organise themselves to convert sunlight into chemical energy and at the same time, protect plants from too much sunlight. Now a collaboration between researchers at the University of Leeds and Kobe University in Japan is developing a novel approach to the investigation of photosynthesis.

Using hybrid membranes that mimic natural plant membranes and advanced microscopes, they are opening photosynthesis to nanoscale investigation -- the study of life at less than one billionth of a metre -- to reveal the behaviour of individual protein molecules.

Dr Peter Adams, Associate Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds, who supervised the research, said: "For many decades scientists have been developing an understanding of photosynthesis in terms of the biology of whole plants. This research is tackling it at the molecular level and the way proteins interact.

"A greater understanding of photosynthesis will benefit humankind. It will help scientists identify new ways to protect and boost crop yields, as well as inspire technologists to develop new solar-powered materials and components."

The findings are published in the academic journal Small.

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