London laser lab investigates photosynthesis

Imperial College has opened one of the world’s largest femtosecond laser laboratories, whose researchers will investigate how light activates proteins in animals and plants.

The team, led by Jasper van Thor of the department of molecular biosciences, aims to use laser pulses lasting  some 10-15 seconds to shed light on processes such as photosynthesis, looking at how plant proteins split oxygen from water, and will also study how light-sensitive molecules in bacteria change shape.

Costing some £3m and funded by the BBSRC, the Royal Society and European Research Council, the lab contains three lasers, isolated from vibration in the basement of the building.