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Fake Foliage: Bionic Leaf Tops Plants in Photosynthesis

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Bionic Leaf 2.0, a new, artificial photosynthesis system developed by a team headed by Harvard University scientists, takes in carbon dioxide, water and sunshine to create a sugary fuel. Solar energy splits up a water molecule, and bacteria turn hydrogen and carbon dioxide into liquid fuel, mainly isopropanol, which could be used someday to power a car.

An improvement on their prior effort a year earlier, the new system has a catalyst made of cobalt and phosphorus, increasing the efficiency of the reaction to 10 percent. Normal photosynthesis in plants is just 1 percent efficient at converting solar energy to biomass. This technology has the potential to bring another type of solar energy to the planet, especially in the developing world.


This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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