NASA-awarded experiment could revolutionize artificial photosynthesis

By Pranali Mehta  | Date: 2022-07-07

NASA-awarded experiment could revolutionize artificial photosynthesis

A team of scientists from the University of California, Riverside, are now performing artificial photosynthesis – a process that typically uses water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide to produce energy and oxygen for plant growth – in order to produce food, fuel, and other by-products.

Through the latest study, scientists have demonstrated an artificial photosynthesis procedure, wherein a two-step electrocatalytic process is performed to convert water, CO2, and solar-generated electricity into acetate.

For the record, acetate – which is a key component of vinegar – can then be used by plants for further development and growth.

More importantly, the innovative system developed by the researchers not only intends to mimic the natural photosynthesis process but also aims to improve the overall output.

For instance, in photosynthesis which happens in nature, only 1% of the sunlight’s energy is converted into biomass whereas, in the case of the newly developed artificial technique, the efficiency can be enhanced by approximately four times.

Speaking on the experimental development, Robert Jinkerson, a chemical & environmental engineer from the University of California stated that the unique approach enables researchers to discover new techniques of food production and overcome the limitations of biological photosynthesis.

Imperative to note that the electricity converting device, also known as the electrolyzer, was designed by the researchers in a way that it acts as a growth driver for food-producing organisms to the amount of acetate produced and reduces the production of salt.

Following this, the group of scientists showcased the capabilities of the acetate-rich electrolyzer output in facilitating a spectrum of organisms like yeast, green algae, and mycelium which is used to produce mushrooms.

Researchers claim that the newly developed artificial technique enables algae production that is four times more energy efficient as compared to biological photosynthesis.

Moreover, the scientists were able to produce tomato, canola, cowpea, rice, green pea, and tobacco by using the carbon present in the acetate and growing in the absence of sunlight, promoting the application of the process, in addition to as well as instead of, natural photosynthesis.

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Pranali Mehta

Pranali Mehta

A chemical engineer by qualification, Pranali Mehta has dutifully walked down the slated path and worked in the chemicals industry for a year. Her passion for writing however, pushed her into experimenting with the same as a career. With over three years of experience...

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