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Scientists Developing Artificial Leaves to Produce Energy

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synthetic leaf chlorosomeMimicking nature has been man’s dream since he tried inventing the airplane, and even earlier. Mimicking a leaf for obtaining energy from the Sun has been even more challenging than learning to fly, though, until now, nobody succeeded imitating the evolution or creation or whatever our nature is made of.

Still, an international team of researchers managed to somehow modify an alga’s chlorophyll to resemble the extremely efficient light antennae of bacteria. The team was then able to determine the structure of these light antennae. This is the first step to converting sunlight into energy using an artificial leaf.

Scientists envision nano-scale artificial forests, that could produce fuels or other forms of clean energy, including electricity. To generate fuel from sunlight, besides the antenna you need a light-driven catalyst.

Green leaves, algae and bacteria contain chlorosomes, playing the role of light antennae. Chlorosomes are made up of chlorophyll molecules and are very sensitive to lighting, and work well even in the darkest conditions, such as deep in the sea. The researchers want to imitate chlorosomes through nanotechnology. Their minds are set on an alga named Spirulina (used in medicine to boost the immune system).

Professor Huub de Groot, one of the initiators of the research, says: “We already knew that the light antennae in bacteria form a structure rather like the annual rings of a tree trunk. The molecules in these semi-synthetic antennae seem to stack in a different way; they are flat. But this, too, is one of four ways we had thought in advance were possible.

It’s interesting to hear that we’re again returning to the most common principle to solve the most complicated problem, that of energy production. I wonder if that isn’t the best way to live happily, after all…

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Spirulina is not exactly a medicine, but actually a whole food 🙂 It is also being consumed by fishes, shrimps, and even birds (flamingo), though it is also beneficial for the humans. A bit more about what it is here: http://dlahn.com/spirulina/1 – just to make it a bit clearer 🙂
    –Regards, Dr. Xarran

  2. Science and medicine continue to strive for a better world. Yet there is always a downside to development and often we lead ourselves to a situation that raises more concerns and challenges. Often taking stock of what is already available to us and revisiting some simple methods of survival might after all benefit the world at large.

  3. as much as this information is helpful theres only 1 promblem which is i asked for names of fuel that leaves produce it doesnt once say anthing about what i asked for your thankuly a headland student

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