New 'artificial Photosynthesis' Method Can Increase Energy Efficiency Of Food Production
By adopting artificial photosynthesis, scientists have found a technique to completely replace the need for biological photosynthesis in plants and produce food without the need for sunlight, ANI reported.
For the study, pulbished in the journal, Nature Food, Carbon dioxide, energy, and water were transformed into acetate, the form of vinegar's primary ingredient, by researchers using a two-step electrocatalytic method. Food-producing organisms can consume the acetate to grow in the dark.
As per the researchers, this artificial photosynthesis - facilitated by the electrocatalysis for which electricity was generated using solar panels - could increase the conversion efficiency of sunlight into food, up to 18 times more efficient for some foods.
"With our approach, we sought to identify a new way of producing food that could break through the limits normally imposed by biological photosynthesis," the corresponding author Robert Jinkerson, a UC Riverside assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering, was quoted by ANI as saying.Researchers explain advantages of using a hybrid method over natural photosynthesis
The output of the electrolyser - a device that uses electricity to transform unusable molecules and products, such as carbon dioxide, into basic materials - was optimised to assist the growth of the food-producing organisms in order to bring all the parts of the system together. The highest levels of acetate produced to date were achieved by increasing the amount of acetate produced while decreasing the amount of salt used, ANI reported.
"Using a state-of-the-art two-step tandem CO2 electrolysis setup developed in our laboratory, we were able to achieve a high selectivity towards acetate that cannot be accessed through conventional CO2 electrolysis routes," said corresponding author Feng Jiao at the University of Delaware.
Experiments revealed that a variety of food-producing species, including green algae, yeast, and fungal mycelium that produces mushrooms, can be grown in the dark directly on the acetate-rich electrolyzer output. With this method, growing algae is around four times more energy-efficient than via natural photosynthesis. Typically, yeast production is cultivated using sugar extracted from corn and artificial photosynthesis makes it 18 times more energy efficient.
"We were able to grow food-producing organisms without any contributions from biological photosynthesis. Typically, these organisms are cultivated on sugars derived from plants or inputs derived from petroleum--which is a product of biological photosynthesis that took place millions of years ago. This technology is a more efficient method of turning solar energy into food, as compared to food production that relies on biological photosynthesis," Elizabeth Hann, a doctoral candidate in the Jinkerson Lab and co-lead author of the study, was quoted by ANI as saying.
Artificial photosynthesis makes it possible to grow food in the more challenging conditions brought on by human climate change by releasing agriculture from its whole reliance on the sun. If crops for humans and animals grew in less resource-intensive, regulated conditions, drought, floods, and decreased land availability would be less of a danger to global food security. Additionally, crops could be cultivated in urban areas and other regions that are currently unsuited for agriculture, even providing nourishment for future space explorers.