A dual compartment cuvette system for correcting scattering in whole-cell absorbance spectroscopy of photosynthetic microorganisms

John R. D. Hervey, Paolo Bombelli, David J. Lea-Smith, Alan K. Hulme, Nathan R. Hulme, Atvinder K. Rullay, Robert Keighley, Christopher J. Howe

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Absorption spectroscopy is widely used to determine absorption and transmission spectra of chromophores in solution, in addition to suspensions of particles, including micro-organisms. Light scattering, caused by photons deflected from part or all of the cells or other particles in suspension, results in distortions to the absorption spectra, lost information and poor resolution. A spectrophotometer with an integrating sphere may be used to alleviate this problem. However, these instruments are not universally available in biology laboratories, for reasons such as cost. Here, we describe a novel, rapid, and inexpensive technique that minimises the effect of light scattering when performing whole-cell spectroscopy. This method involves using a custom made dual compartment cuvette containing titanium dioxide in one chamber as a scattering agent. Measurements were conducted of a range of different photosynthetic micro-organisms of varying cell size and morphology, including cyanobacteria, eukaryotic microalgae and a purple non-sulphur bacterium. A concentration of 1 mg ml−1 titanium dioxide, using a spectrophotometer with a slit width of 5 nm, produced spectra for cyanobacteria and microalgae similar (1–4% difference) to those obtained using an integrating sphere. The spectrum > 520 nm was similar to that with an integrating sphere with the purple non-sulphur bacterium. This system produced superior results to those obtained using a recently reported method, the application of the diffusing agent, Scotch™ Magic tape, to the side of the cuvette. The protocol can be completed in an equivalent period of time to standard whole-cell absorbance spectroscopy techniques, and is, in principle, suitable for any dual-beam spectrophotometer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-69
Number of pages9
JournalPhotosynthesis Research
Early online date14 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Absorption spectroscopy
  • Chromophores
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Light scattering
  • Microalgae
  • Whole cell spectra

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