OCR A Level Biology

Revision Notes

5.6.3 Photosynthetic Pigments

Photosynthetic Pigments

  • Chloroplasts contain several different photosynthetic pigments within the thylakoids, which absorb different wavelengths of light
  • There are two types of pigments: chlorophylls and carotenoids
    • Accessory pigments that surround the primary pigment absorb both similar and different wavelengths of light to chlorophyll, this expands the wavelength range that can be absorbed from light for use in photosynthesis

Chloroplast Pigments Table

Chloroplast Pigments Table, downloadable AS & A Level Biology revision notes

  • Chlorophylls absorb wavelengths in the blue-violet and red regions of the light spectrum
    • They reflect green light, causing plants to appear green
  • Carotenoids absorb wavelengths of light mainly in the blue-violet region of the spectrum

Absorption spectra of chlorophylls and carotenoids_1, downloadable AS & A Level Biology revision notes

Chlorophyll and carotenoids absorb light across the visible light spectrum to use in the light-dependent reaction of photosynthesis.

Pigments and photosystems

  • Within chloroplasts thylakoids stack up to form structures known as grana (singular – granum)
  • The thylakoid membrane system provides a large number of pigment molecules in an arrangement that ensures as much light as necessary is absorbed
  • The pigment molecules are arranged in light-harvesting clusters known as photosystems
  • In a photosystem, the different pigment molecules are arranged in funnel-like structures in the thylakoid membrane (each pigment molecule passes energy down to the next pigment molecule in the cluster until it reaches the primary pigment reaction centre)
  • There are two different photosystems, each with a specific form of chlorophyll a
  • Photosystem 1 (PSI), often referred to as P700
    • The chlorophyll a in this system has a maximum absorption of light at 700nm
  • Photosystem 2 (PSII), often referred to as P680
    • The chlorophyll a in this system has a maximum absorption of light at 680nm

Thylakoid membrane photosystem, downloadable AS & A Level Biology revision notes

An example of a photosystem in a chloroplast thylakoid membrane: a light-harvesting cluster of photosynthetic pigments involved in the light-dependent stage of photosynthesis

Exam Tip

Remember – the pigments themselves have colour (as described in the table). This is different from the colours of light that they absorb.


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