Sunday, 12 October 2014

Photosynthetically productive light distributed to symbiotic microalgae

Iridescent cells in the mantle tissue of giant clams spread light of a wavelength that drives photosynthesis to microalgae that provide nutrition for the animals, the University of Pennsylvania’s Alison Sweeney and colleagues reported in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

In their paper, the researchers likened the symbiotic system to an electric transformer, “which changes energy flux per area in a system while conserving total energy.” Given this parallel, the authors proposed that the clam system might inspire the development of more efficient and resilient photovoltaic materials.

These so-called iridocytes not only distribute photosynthetically productive light to the algae, they also reflect nonproductive light, the researchers showed. “At incident light levels found on shallow coral reefs, this arrangement may allow algae within the clam system to both efficiently use all incident solar energy and avoid the photodamage and efficiency losses,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

Source: The Scientist