Monday, August 4, 2014

The "first man-made biological leaf" could enable humans to colonise space

Chloroplasts suspended in silk protein

Julian Melchiorri developed this synthetic biological leaf that which absorbs water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen just like a plant. He says it could enable long-distance space travel.

"Plants don't grow in zero gravity," says Julian Melchiorri "NASA is researching different ways to produce oxygen for long-distance space journeys to let us live in space. This material could allow us to explore space much further than we can now."

A photosynthetic facade by Julian Melchiorri

Melchiorri's Silk Leaf project consists of chloroplasts suspended in a matrix made out of silk protein.

"The material is extracted directly from the fibres of silk,...". "This material has an amazing property of stabilising molecules. I extracted chloroplasts from plant cells and placed them inside this silk protein. As an outcome I have the first photosynthetic material that is living and breathing as a leaf does.", says Julian Melchiorri.


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