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Thursday, 23 June 2016

Bionic Leaf prove key to renewable fuels with only source of sunlight water and air

The device uses solar electricity from a photovoltaic panel to power the chemistry that splits water into oxygen and hydrogen, then adds pre-starved microbes to feed on the hydrogen and convert CO2 in the air into alcohol fuels. Credit: Des_Callaghan via Wikimedia Commons
A nature’s miracle of photosynthesis in the leaf with simple combination of sunlight, water and carbon dioxide can provide useful fuel. What about replicating the system? Scientists combined chemistry and biology into a bionic leaf. Although the first artificial photosynthesis device appeared back in 2015 which can able to pump 216 mgs of alcohol fuel per litres of water but it was in some scenario had an unfortunate side for dwelling useful microbes. Chemist Dr. Daniel Nocera of Harvard University along with synthetic biologist Dr. Pamela Silver from Harvard Medical School crafted the previous bionic leaf. Now they have overcome the problem with nickel-molybdenum-zinc catalyst with an alloy of cobalt and phosphorus, a perfect amalgam that will fit the circut with no harm to the microbes. The research was published in the journal Science on June 2nd 2016 and the article was presented in Scientific American by David Biello.

With little flash of charge the combination of water with cobalt and phosphate the new catalyst can assemble itself. The Phosphorous in water serve to be proficient for microbial organisms as like Ralstonia eutropha that make the back half of bionic leaf.

Nocera as reported to Scientific American, “The catalyst can never die as it's functioning”, as the catalyst can run at a stretch of 16days. It was also interesting to note that the cobalt catalyst splits water to hydrogen and oxygen without creating intermediate reactive oxygen that may harm DNA or other processes for which life depends. The good reason behind it remains unclear.

The efficiency has increased by 10 percent with the use of this new catalyst in Bionic leaf for producing fuels like isopropanol and isobutanol. "By integrating the technology of biology and organic chemistry there is a very powerful path forward where you take the best of both worlds," said Nocera. "I took air plus sunlight plus water and I made stuff out of it, and I did it 10 times better than nature. That makes me feel good."



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