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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2008 Apr;19(2):153-9. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2008.02.004.

What is the maximum efficiency with which photosynthesis can convert solar energy into biomass?

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


Photosynthesis is the source of our food and fiber. Increasing world population, economic development, and diminishing land resources forecast that a doubling of productivity is critical in meeting agricultural demand before the end of this century. A starting point for evaluating the global potential to meet this goal is establishing the maximum efficiency of photosynthetic solar energy conversion. The potential efficiency of each step of the photosynthetic process from light capture to carbohydrate synthesis is examined. This reveals the maximum conversion efficiency of solar energy to biomass is 4.6% for C3 photosynthesis at 30 degrees C and today's 380 ppm atmospheric [CO2], but 6% for C4 photosynthesis. This advantage over C3 will disappear as atmospheric [CO2] nears 700 ppm.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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