Carotenoids play an important role in biological oxygenation. In plant cells they are involved in the control of trans-membrane transport of molecular oxygen released in photosynthesis. In animals carotenoids play an important role to support oxygen in its transport, storage and metabolism. There are over 1000 known carotenoids which can be classified into two groups - Xanthophylls (containing oxygen) and carotenes (not containing oxygen).
Their color, ranging from pale yellow through bright orange to deep red, is directly linked to their structure. Electrons in the conjugated system within the molecule is allowed to move freely across these areas of the molecule. As the number of conjugated double bonds increases, electrons associated with conjugated systems have more room to move, and require less energy to change states. This causes the range of energies of light absorbed by the molecule to decrease. As more wavelengths of light are absorbed from the longer end of the visible spectrum, the compounds acquire an increasingly red appearance.
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