Thursday, March 18, 2010

Artificial Photosynthesis? Awesome.

All our food is, ultimately, from sunlight (and CO2); most everything that moves gets the energy from sunlight, though sometimes by quite a long and circuitous route as in the case of fossil-fuels. Photosynthesis is where it begins, and unless you count the (relatively very, very minor) contributions of solar and solar thermal energy harvesting methods, it was the only way.

Natural photosynthesis, that is.

Here's awesomeness: Folks at the University of Cincinnati developed an artificial photosynthesis method that is more efficient than the natural one, because there is no plant to grow around the photosynthesis center. And here's more awesomeness, from my point of view: Remove excess CO2 from the air, for instance installing these things near populationo centers, and make candy, I mean glucose, or biofuels. I see no downside to this plan.

Well, actually I can see no downside, since this is technically not my area of expertise. But here is the original paper, if you are in a network that can access it. It starts with this:
We present a cell-free artificial photosynthesis platform that couples the requisite enzymes of the Calvin cycle with a nanoscale photophosphorylation system engineered into a foam architecture using the Tngara frog surfactant protein Ranaspumin-2. This unique protein surfactant allowed lipid vesicles and coupled enzyme activity to be concentrated to the microscale Plateau channels of the foam, directing photoderived chemical energy to the singular purpose of carbon fixation and sugar synthesis, with chemical conversion efficiencies approaching 96%.

And ends with:
Undoubtedly, the extraction and large scale implementation of our fully engineered multienzyme system is just beginning, but a photosynthetic foam designed for focused biologic energy conversion offers a new paradigm for carbon fixation and biofuel generation without the biomass limitations of arable land or excess quantities of water.

Let's hope this fulfills its promise.

1 comment:

Kristy said...

Hell to the YES. awesome!!! want to read that to see how they got the photosystem to assemble!

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