Researchers are relying on graphics processing units to help build a highly complex computer simulation depicting how chromatophore proteins create photosynthesis.
The study of processes that make life possible is hardly a leisurely pursuit, but that doesn't preclude researchers from taking advantage of the most advanced video gaming technology available to aid in their work.
A team of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign physicists has assembled a supercomputer consisting of several hundred superfast graphics processing units—typically used for rendering highly sophisticated video game graphics—that they think will help them build a simulation depicting how chromatophore proteins turn light energy into chemical energy, a process called photosynthesis.
"Ninety-five percent of the energy that life on Earth requires are fueled by photosynthetic processes," says Klaus Schulten, a U.I.U.C. physics professor leading the simulation-building effort and director of the school's Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group. To better understand how these processes work, Schulten's team is assembling a computer-based, virtual photosynthetic chromatophore.
Photosynthetic chromatophores are bubbles of liquid that form on the membranes of bacteria that harness sunlight, carbon dioxide and water to produce the energy needed for respiration and other functions. These bacteria use chromatophores to store the proteins necessary for photosynthesis. This is simplest of all types of photosynthetic systems, Schulten says.
From Scientific American
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