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Space-filling model of the chlorophyll molecule.
light-green: Magnesium
blue: Nitrogen
red: Oxygen
black: Carbon
white: Hydrogen

Chlorophyll (also chlorophyl) is a green pigment found in cyanobacteria and the chloroplasts of algae and plants. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρος, chloros ("green") and φύλλον, phyllon ("leaf"). Green leafed plants and algaes use chlorophyll to power photosynthesis, the synthesis of complex molecules like sugars from carbon, water, and sunlight. Chlorophyll is a porphyrin, such as heme, a protein cofactor of hemoglobin, the pigment in red blood cells. Chlorophyll is a magnesium porphyrin whereas the heme is an iron porphyrin.[1] Until recently, there were only 4 known types of chlorophyll, termed a, b, c, and d, with most plants producing chlorophyll type a.[2] Chlorophyll type a absorbs blue light (centered on 465 nanometers) and red light (centered on 665 nanometers) but reflects green light allowing leaves to have their green coloring.

Chlorophyll types b and c are much like chlorphyll a. Chlorphyll d is found in certain cyanobacteria and especially absorbs the redder light centered at 697 nanometers. Recently, a new kind of chlorophyll, called chlorophyll f, was found in Australian stromatolites, possibly in a cyanobacteria. This chlorophyll f especially absorbs near infrared light of 706 nanometers.[3]

Some bacteria have pigments that are like chlorophyll, but they aren't used to break water molecules and generate oxygen. Some researchers were surprised that the new chlorophyll was able to provide enough energy to break water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, since the longer, redder, wavelength means that the light is less energetic.


The process of energy conversion begins when a photon excites a chlorophyll molecule, making an electron to move from one molecular orbital to another of higher energy.[4] The excited molecule tends to return quickly to its original, unexcited state. This can happen by converting the extra energy into heat (or a part thereof in fluorescence), by transferring energy to a neighbouring chlorophyll or by transferring the high-energy electron to another nearby molecule the latter two of which are used in photosyntesis[4]


  1. Freedman, Jeffrey C (2001). "1:Biophysical Chemistry of Physiological Solutions". In Sperelakis, Nicholas. Cell Physiology Sourcebook: A Molecular Approach (3th ed.). San Diego, California: Academic Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-12-656977-0. 
  2. Chlorophyll Gets and 'f' by Rachel Ehrenberg. Science News. Web edition : Thursday, August 19th, 2010. Accessed 21 August 2010.
  3. Chlorophyll Gets and 'f' by Rachel Ehrenberg. Science News. Web edition : Thursday, August 19th, 2010. Accessed 21 August 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Alberts, Bruce; Johnson, Alexander; Lewis, Julian; Raff, Martin; Roberts, Keith; Walters, Peter (2008). Molecular Biology of the Cell (5th ed.). New York and London: Garland Science. p. 847-848. ISBN 0-8153-4105-9. 

See Also