Electronic interactions in photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes: The role of carotenoids

Gregory D. Scholes, Richard D. Harcourt, Graham R. Fleming

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The origin and distance dependence of the electronic interactions which promote energy transfer within photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes is investigated. A model based on localized molecular orbitals is related to canonical molecular orbital calculations, therefore demonstrating its practical utility and allowing us to interpret the results of CAS-SCF calculations of the coupling between donor-acceptor pairs. We then focus on the mechanism of energy transfer involving the carotenoid 21Ag (S1) electronic state: [carotenoid (21Ag) (Car) to carotenoid (21Ag)] and [carotenoid (21Ag) to bacteriochlorophyll (Qy) (Bchl)] interactions. The Car-Car coupling is found to involve reasonably long-range interaction terms, with a primary contribution from dispersion-type interactions, which have an R6 distance dependence. The primary contributor to the Car-Bchl S1 → S1 energy transfer mechanism is suggested to be proportional to the product of dipole-dipole and polarization interactions. In neither case does the electronic interaction resemble the Dexter exchange integral in origin or distance dependence. Some model CAS-SCF calculations of electronic interactions in 2,4,6-octatriene dimers are presented which support the predictions of the theory: the calculated interaction is found to be (i) small in comparison to the overlap-dependent triplet-triplet interaction at close separations; (ii) small in comparison to a dipole-dipole (S2) interaction at all separations; and (iii) quite weakly distance dependent at larger separations. The implications for the role of carotenoids in photosynthetic light-harvesting complexes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7302-7312
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 11 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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