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By Stephen Luntz

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A New Form of Chlorophyll
The first new member in 60 years has been added to one of the most important families of organic molecules. “Chlorophyll-f” has the capacity to capture light of longer wavelengths than other forms of the vital molecule, opening up many questions as a result.

Plants, algae and some bacteria use chlorophyll to capture energy from sunlight and convert carbon dioxide into sugars and oxygen in the process. Despite being the basis for most life on Earth, chlorophylls are inefficient. They reflect light in the green part of the spectrum, producing the dominant colour in leaves, but in doing so miss out on the wavelengths at which sunlight is most intense.

Most plants convert sunlight at efficiencies of just 3–6%, with peaks at wavelengths depending on which chlorophyll molecule is used. Most species use either chlorophyll-a or chlorophyll-b, but chlorophyll-c and chlorophyll-d are known, along with unconfirmed reports of chlorophyll-e.

“Finding the new chlorophyll was totally unexpected – it was one of those serendipitous moments of scientific discovery,” says Dr Min Chen of the University of Sydney’s School of Biological Sciences. “I was actually looking for chlorophyll-d, which we knew could be found in cyanobacteria living in low light conditions. I thought stromatolites would be a good place to look, since...

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