Progress in photosynthesis research is strongly dependent on instrumentation. It is therefore not surprising
that the impressive advances that have been made in recent decades are paralleled by equally
impressive advances in sensitivity and sophistication of physical equipment and methods. This trend
started already shortly after the war, in work by pioneers like Lou Duysens, the late Stacy French,
Britton Chance, Horst Witt, George Feher and others, but it really gained momentum in the seventies
and especially the eighties when pulsed lasers, pulsed EPR spectrometers and solid-state electronics
acquired a more and more prominent role on the scene of scientific research.
This book is different from most others because it focuses on the techniques rather than on the
scientific questions involved. Its purpose is three-fold, and this purpose is reflected in each chapter: (i)
to give the reader sufficient insight in the basic principles of a method to understand its applications (ii)
to give information on the practical aspects of the method and (iii) to discuss some of the results
obtained in photosynthesis research in order to provide insight in its potentalities. We hope that in this
way the reader will obtain sufficient information for a critical assessment of the relevant literature, and,
perhaps more important, will gain inspiration to tackle problems in his own field of research. The book
is not intended to give a comprehensive review of photosynthesis, but nevertheless offers various views
on the exciting developments that are going on.
The methods discussed in the book can be roughly divided in three categories: methods of optical
electronic and vibrational spectroscopy, magnetic resonance methods and methods mainly aimed at
obtaining structural information. Optical methods and phenomena that are discussed include linear and
circular dichroism, time resolved fluorescence and absorbance measurements, including their data analysis,
vibrational spectroscopy (infrared and resonance Raman) and specialized techniques, such as photon
echo, hole burning, Stark and photoacoustic spectroscopy. The section on magnetic resonance is mainly
devoted to electron spin resonance and the various techniques that apply: EPR, ESE, ENDOR and
ODMR. One chapter is devoted to magic angle spinning NMR.
Knowledge of the structure of the photosynthetic apparatus is a prerequisite for obtaining insight in
its function. With one exception (oxygen measurements) the third section of the book concerns methods
that are primarily aimed at obtaining such structural information. A variety of techniques is discussed: Xray
diffraction, X-ray absorption, electron microscopy, Mössbauer spectroscopy and neutron scattering.
Although the book does not pretend to give an exhaustive overview of all types of physical measurements
in photosynthesis, we feel that it gives a fairly comprehensive picture of the most important techniques
and of their applications.
This book has been made possible by the help and effort of many. First of all we are indebted to
the authors of the various chapters. All of them, we think, furnished us with first-rate contributions
highlighting their field of specialization. Second, we would like to thank the editor-in-chief of the series,
Govindjee, who engendered the idea for this book, and with incessant and unfailing enthusiasm guided
us with his electronic messages. Third, we thank the secretarial staff of our department, Mrs. B.C. van
Dijk and Mrs. M.J. Gouw who helped us in various ways. Finally we want to acknowledge the skill of
Gilles Jonker and his staff at Kluwer in producing the book.