Jump to main content
Jump to site search
Access to RSC content Close the message box

Continue to access RSC content when you are not at your institution. Follow our step-by-step guide.

Issue 6, 2018
Previous Article Next Article

Robust light harvesting by a noisy antenna

Author affiliations


Photosynthetic light harvesting can be very efficient in solar energy conversion while taking place in a highly disordered and noisy physiological environment. This efficiency is achieved by the ultrafast speed of the primary photosynthetic processes, which is enabled by a delicate interplay of quantum effects, thermodynamics and environmental noise. The primary processes take place in light-harvesting antennas built from pigments bound to a fluctuating protein scaffold. Here, we employ ultrafast single-molecule spectroscopy to follow fluctuations of the femtosecond energy transfer times in individual LH2 antenna complexes of purple bacteria. By combining single molecule results with ensemble spectroscopy through a unified theoretical description of both, we show how the protein fluctuations alter the excitation energy transfer dynamics. We find that from the thirteen orders of magnitude of possible timescales from picoseconds to minutes, the relevant fluctuations occur predominantly on a biological timescale of seconds, i.e. in the domain of slow protein motion. The measured spectra and dynamics can be explained by the protein modulating pigment excitation energies only. Moreover, we find that the small spread of pigment mean energies allows for excitation delocalization between the coupled pigments to survive. These unique features provide fast energy transport even in the presence of disorder. We conclude that this is the mechanism that enables LH2 to operate as a robust light-harvester, in spite of its intrinsically noisy biological environment.

Graphical abstract: Robust light harvesting by a noisy antenna

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Article information

08 Sep 2017
13 Dec 2017
First published
25 Jan 2018

This article is Open Access

Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2018,20, 4360-4372
Article type

Robust light harvesting by a noisy antenna

P. Malý, A. T. Gardiner, R. J. Cogdell, R. van Grondelle and T. Mančal, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2018, 20, 4360
DOI: 10.1039/C7CP06139K

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported Licence. Material from this article can be used in other publications provided that the correct acknowledgement is given with the reproduced material and it is not used for commercial purposes.

Reproduced material should be attributed as follows:

  • For reproduction of material from NJC:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the RSC.
  • For reproduction of material from PCCP:
    [Original citation] - Published by the PCCP Owner Societies.
  • For reproduction of material from PPS:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the European Society for Photobiology, the European Photochemistry Association, and RSC.
  • For reproduction of material from all other RSC journals:
    [Original citation] - Published by The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Information about reproducing material from RSC articles with different licences is available on our Permission Requests page.

Social activity

Search articles by author