Jul 4, 2022

New Artificial Photosynthesis Method Grows Food With No Sunshine

Posted by in categories: chemistry, food, solar power, sustainability

Photosynthesis uses a series of chemical reactions to convert carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight into glucose and oxygen. The light-dependent stage comes first, and relies on sunlight to transfer energy to plants, which convert it to chemical energy. The light-independent stage (also called the Calvin Cycle) follows, when this chemical energy and carbon dioxide are used to form carbohydrate molecules (like glucose).

A research team from UC Riverside and the University of Delaware found a way to leapfrog over the light-dependent stage entirely, providing plants with the chemical energy they need to complete the Calvin Cycle in total darkness. They used an electrolysis to convert carbon dioxide and water into acetate, a salt or ester form of acetic acid and a common building block for biosynthesis (it’s also the main component of vinegar). The team fed the acetate to plants in the dark, finding they were able to use it as they would have used the chemical energy they’d get from sunlight.

They tried their method on several varieties of plants and measured the differences in growth efficiency as compared to regular photosynthesis. Green algae grew four times more efficiently, while yeast saw an 18-fold improvement.

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