Virtual Reality App "Photosystem II: assembly and function in virtual reality"

Photosynthesis is an interesting topic to use in education and outreach activities. Virtual Reality technology can help communicate the concepts involved to a range of audiences.
Virtual Reality App "Photosystem II: assembly and function in virtual reality"

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The Virtual Reality App "Photosystem II: assembly and function in virtual reality" is an educational tool for teachers, high school students, and first year degree students that invites you to discover, in an informative tone and immersively, where the oxygen we breathe comes from, and makes Earth a habitable planet as we know it. It shows where the first stages of photosynthesis occur inside the plant cells and the activity of the biomolecules involved.

The setting of this story is the chloroplast, an organelle exclusive to plant cells. The main biomolecules involved are chlorophylls, green pigments that give plant leaves their colour, and which are arranged inside complex large proteins that we call photosystems. In particular, we will look at photosystem II (PSII), and we will see how it is assembled from the proteins and pigments that compose it, as well as how it works. The sunlight excites the activity of photosystem II and numerous electrons travel through chlorophylls and other pigments called pheophytins, all of them associated with the photosystem II. These complex reactions are necessary for plant development and growth. Besides, as a by-product, oxygen is released from the photolysis of the surrounding water molecules. The oxygen production reaction requires a lot of activation and needs a catalyst that is part of photosystem II, i.e., the manganese-calcium cluster (Mn4CaO5), which is ligated to this large protein-pigment complex. Molecular oxygen is released into the atmosphere and is the one we continuously breathe.

We encourage you to discover the first stages of photosynthesis with this App in Virtual Reality! You can download the Virtual Reality App here and we encourage you to read this other post from the author describing the past, present and future research on photosynthesis, from discovering the water-splitting reaction to creating devices that could carry out artificial photosytheis, and hence provide oxygen to support space exploration.

App’s technical description:

  • Three executable files for Virtual Reality App in Android devices or Smartphones (Versions in Spanish, English and French © CSIC – FESD, 2019).
  • Mobile device or smartphone with Android as mobile operating system (medium - high quality) Octa-Core 2.2 Ghz 6Gb RAM, gyroscope and accelerometer.
Girl looking into a Virtual Reality headset, facing the camera, with other young people behind her.
Students using the Virtual Reality App "Photosystem II: assembly and function in virtual reality".
Poster for the Virtual Reality app showing a drawing of a woman wearing VR goggles and facing the camera.
Flyer for the Virtual Reality app download, with QR code and sponsors' logos.

Images from Inmaculada Yruela.

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Go to the profile of Ferhan Sagin
4 months ago


Such an exciting educational approach that brilliantly combines immersive learning with essential biological concepts. Its focus on elucidating the origins of the oxygen we breathe through the intricate processes of photosynthesis is admirable. The inclusion of the manganese-calcium cluster's role in oxygen production further enriches the learning experience by highlighting the complexity of these biological mechanisms. I am positive that this app can also serve as a bridge connecting learners with the ongoing research in photosynthesis, potentially inspiring future scientific exploration.

Congrats Inmaculada for this post!