Researchers just outperformed Mother Nature. Scientists from University of California, Berkeley, created a cyborg bacteria that eliminates the need for chlorophyll, the key ingredient to natural photosynthesis. Thanks to their accomplishment, artificial photosynthesis isn’t only possible, but commercially viable #todaymagic
A research team from Berkeley trained bacteria to grow and cover itself with semiconductor nanocrystals that act just like solar panels to catch sunlight. By doing so, humanity doesn’t need to rely on chlorophyll to source energy from the Sun. The crystals are, in fact, much more efficient at converting solar energy.
The team worked with a naturally occurring, nonphotosynthetic bacterium, Moorella thermoacetica, which, as part of its normal respiration, produces acetic acid from carbon dioxide (CO2). Then, they fed it cadmium and the amino acid cysteine (which contains a sulfur atom), resulting in synthesized cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanoparticles, which worked as solar panels on their surfaces. The hybrid organism can make acetic acid from CO2, water and light faster than any source of natural photosynthesis.
Once it’s covered in these tiny solar panels, said bacteria can synthesize most materials, from fuel to plastics, just by using solar energy. Want to know what the best thing is? It’s all done with zero waste. The organism is self-replicating and self-regenerating, so it’s basically killing two birds with one stone.
It’s not the first time an artificial photosynthesis solution has come to light. But this seems the first commercially viable one. The bacteria is said to operate at an efficiency of more than 80 percent. Plus, “these nanocrystals are much more efficient than chlorophyll and can be grown at a fraction of the cost of manufactured solar panels”, wrote Kelsey K. Sakimoto, Ph.D.