Researchers have discovered a way to completely replace the need for organic photosynthesis and make food without using natural sunlight, through a method called artificial photosynthesis. The study was published in “Nature Food,” an online journal that publishes research, reviews and commentaries on all aspects of food production, and may look promising for the future of the planet.
What is artificial photosynthesis?
Artificial photosynthesis is a process that mimics natural photosynthesis, a biochemical reaction in which plants and some other organisms use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and energy in the form of sugar. .
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An artificial photosynthesis system includes an enzyme bed reactor to adjust the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It can also be done by another source that requires the removal of carbon dioxide from the air. This enzyme reactor is powered by hydrogen energy and a biochemical transducer. Hydrogen energy uses hydrogen or hydrogen-containing compounds to generate energy, which is then supplied with high energy efficiency for all practical uses needed. Transducers are a part of any medical ultrasound system, and modeling of the transducer enables it to convert physical quantities into electrical signals and vice versa.
Other important components of a composite artificial photosynthesis system include PV panels that meet the system’s electrical requirements and help produce electricity, dry agriculture in the form of carbohydrates, liquid fuels, chemical feedstock, and fiber manufacturing. Hydrogen production achieved through polymers and electrochemical water for Separation into hydrogen and oxygen by mimicking photosynthesis.
How was the research done?
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The researchers involved in the study used a two-step electrocatalytic process to convert the carbon dioxide, electricity and water as the main components of vinegar into acetate. Food-producing organisms would then consume this acetate to be able to grow in the dark.
In order to integrate all the components of the system together, the output of the electrolyzer was used to support the growth of food-producing organisms. Electrolyzers are devices that use electricity to convert raw materials, including carbon dioxide, into useful molecules and products. The production of acetate was increased while the amount of salt used was decreased, resulting in the highest levels of acetate ever produced in the electrolyzer.
“Using a state-of-the-art two-step tandem CO2 electrolysis set-up developed in our laboratory, we were able to achieve a high selectivity towards acetate that cannot be accessed through conventional CO2 electrolysis routes,” said Feng Xiao , a concerned study author at the University of Delaware said, as reported by ANI.
Why is this study beneficial?
These experiments showed that a wide range of food-producing organisms can be grown directly in the dark at the acetate-rich electrolyzer output. Some of these organisms include green algae, yeast, and the fungal mycelium that produces mushrooms. This technology that produces algae is nearly four times more expensive energy efficient Compared to growing algae photosynthetically. In addition, yeast production is about 18 times more energy-efficient than if it were typically grown using sugar extracted from corn.
As reported by ANI, Elizabeth Hahn, a doctoral candidate in the Jinkerson lab and co-lead author of the study, said, “We were able to grow food-producing organisms without any contribution from biological photosynthesis. Typically, these organisms are cultivated on input from plant sugars or petroleum—a product of biological photosynthesis that occurred millions of years ago. This technology is a more efficient way of converting solar energy into food than food production that relies on organic photosynthesis.”
The potential for using this technology to grow crop plants was also investigated. It was found that cowpea, tomato, tobacco, rice, canola and green peas were all able to utilize carbon from acetate when cultivated in the dark. They were able to use acetate and make it into key molecule building blocks that an organism needs to grow and survive. In the future, there is a possibility that one may be able to grow crops with acetate as an additional energy source to boost crop yields.
How artificial photosynthesis can solve problems arising from Climate change,
This study discards the complete dependence on the sun and opens up many possibilities for the production of food under the difficult conditions imposed by climate change. Threats to global food security from drought, floods and reduced land availability have become less common as crops for humans and animals are likely to be grown in less resource-intensive, controlled environments. In addition, crops can also be grown in areas that currently have land unsuitable for agriculture.
“Using artificial photosynthesis approaches to produce food could be a paradigm shift in how we feed people. By increasing the efficiency of food production, less land is required, reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment.” And for agriculture in non-traditional environments, like outer space, the increased energy efficiency could help feed more crew members with less input,” said study co-author Robert Zincerson and chemical and UC Riverside assistant professor of environmental engineering said. As reported in ANI report.
Ultimately, this innovative study opens the door to the potential for growing crops on other planets and objects in the Solar System as well.
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