, Volume 101, Issue 2-3, pp 105-118,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 04 Jul 2009

Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy: principles and application to photosynthetic systems


The photophysical and photochemical reactions, after light absorption by a photosynthetic pigment–protein complex, are among the fastest events in biology, taking place on timescales ranging from tens of femtoseconds to a few nanoseconds. The advent of ultrafast laser systems that produce pulses with femtosecond duration opened up a new area of research and enabled investigation of these photophysical and photochemical reactions in real time. Here, we provide a basic description of the ultrafast transient absorption technique, the laser and wavelength-conversion equipment, the transient absorption setup, and the collection of transient absorption data. Recent applications of ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy on systems with increasing degree of complexity, from biomimetic light-harvesting systems to natural light-harvesting antennas, are presented. In particular, we will discuss, in this educational review, how a molecular understanding of the light-harvesting and photoprotective functions of carotenoids in photosynthesis is accomplished through the application of ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy.