Photosynthesis occurs inside chloroplasts. Chloroplasts contain chlorophyll, a green pigment found inside the thylakoid membranes. These chlorophyll molecules are arranged in groups called photosystems. There are two types of photosystems, Photosystem II and Photosystem I. When a chlorophyll molecule absorbs light, the energy from this light raises an electron within the chlorophyll molecule to a higher energy state. The chlorophyll molecule is then said to be photoactivated. Excited electron anywhere within the photosystem are then passed on from one chlorophyll molecule to the next until they reach a special chlorophyll molecule at the reaction centre of the photosystem. This special chlorophyll molecule then passes on the excited electron to a chain of electron carriers.
Some plants and plantlike organisms have developed other pigments to compensate for low light or poor use of light. Cyanobacteria and red algae have phycocyanin and allophycocyanin as accessory pigments to absorbe orange light. They also have a red pigment called phycoerythrin that absorbs green light and extends the range of photosynthesis. The red pigment is found in vegetables. Some red algae are in fact nearly black, so that increases their photosynthetic efficiency. Brown algae have the pigment fucoxanthin in addition to chlorophyll to widen their absorption range. These red and brown algae grow to depths around 270 meters where the light is less than 1% of surface light.
PPT – Photosynthetic pigments: PowerPoint …
As we can see, there is a close relationship between the action spectrum and absorption spectrum of photosynthesis. There are many different types of photosynthetic pigments which will absorb light best at different wavelengths. However the most abundant photosynthetic pigment in plants is chlorophyll and therefore the rate of photosynthesis will be the greatest at wavelengths of light best absorbed by chlorophyll (400nm-525nm corresponding to violet-blue light). Very little light is absorbed by chlorophyll at wavelengths of light between 525nm and 625 (green-yellow light) so the rate of photosynthesis will be the least within this range. However, there are other pigments that are able to absorb green-yellow light such as carotene. Even though these are present in small amounts they allow a low rate of photosynthesis to occur at wavelengths of light that chlorophyll cannot absorb.