Bionic Leaf Helps Vegetables to Grow

Julie Reindl
April 14th 2017

Leafs are great. Not just visually beautiful when turning our forests from green to yellow but with great internal power. From turning sun in usable energy to serving the human as a tissue repair for damaged hearts. This time though, it is not the leaf we are used to see in our common habitat but a bionic one, showing us once again how old and new nature can merge.

Developed by two Harvard professors, the bionic leaf is a huge green foliage of plant with the power of a solar cell. Together with the support of the bacteria ralstonia eutropha the artificial leaf turns hydrogen and carbon dioxide into the useful fuel isopropanol. This odor intense unvisibile gas is used in chemistry and bio laboratories or can be found in rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer. But this is not even the most interesting news about the bionic leaf. The machine could potentially become a lead in fertilization for any kind of vegetables.

In their research, the scientists made the bacteria xanthobacter able to take in hydrogen. This procedure allows the bacteria to produce a bioplastic to power the plant itself. The machines where then places in the soil in order to extract nitrogen from the air. Through those means ammonia was released to the growing vegetables. The outcome of the experiments went beyond expectations: the vegetables fertilized by the artificial leaf were 150 percent heavier than the control crops.

At this stage the procedure still needs research and won't be available in any rural areas soon. Though it shows us how fake nature could be more than mere decoration, it can also have an actual effect on our environment and work together with old nature.

Source: Popsci. Image: Imeche

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