Although the energy transfer processes in natural light-harvesting systems have been intensively studied for the past 60 years, certain details of the underlying mechanisms remain controversial. We performed broadband two-dimensional (2D) electronic spectroscopy measurements on light-harvesting proteins from purple bacteria and isolated carotenoids in order to characterize in more detail the excited-state manifold of carotenoids, which channel energy to bacteriochlorophyll molecules. The data revealed a well-resolved signal consistent with a previously postulated carotenoid dark state, the presence of which was confirmed by global kinetic analysis. The results point to this state's role in mediating energy flow from carotenoid to bacteriochlorophyll.
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