Scientists from the University of California have built a nano power plant that uses sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into new organic molecules.
The device is a collection of bacteria attached to a nanowire frame. The researchers say it could be the key to helping us produce a range of important medicinal materials and many more in future colonization on Mars.
In the Earth's atmosphere, carbon dioxide makes up a very small percentage, so its effects on life and ecosystems are minimal. But the atmosphere of Mars is almost the opposite, with a carbon dioxide rate of up to 96% instead of just about 1% on Earth. To survive on Mars, the best way humans can do is to make the most of this abundant source of gas.
On Earth, plants live on sunlight. The most efficient plant on our planet, according to the researchers, is sugarcane, which converts up to 5% of sunlight and carbon dioxide into sugar. The structure of the aforementioned nano power plant is a two-part system that mimics the life mechanisms of true plants. A framework made of nanowires will attract electrons to feed the important bacteria mounted on them, and these bacteria will convert electrons into acetate molecules .
Acetate is a fairly common substance in consumer resins, but that is only a tiny fraction of the surface of the acetate iceberg. In its simplest chemical form, acetate, or acetic acid, is vinegar. Acetate molecules play a vital role in making many components of life through biosynthesis. Molecules in the body, like amino acids and cholesterol, are biosynthesized.
The nano power plant was created by scientists at the University of California.
" Acetate molecules can act as bricks to form a series of organic molecules, from fuels and plastics to medicines, " the scientists said. " Many other organic products can be made from acetate inside genetically modified organisms, such as bacteria or yeast ."
Chemical professor and lead researcher, Peidong Yang, says his team is working on similar systems that can produce " sugars and carbohydrates " - also an active bio-hybrid system. based on the mechanisms of plant life.
The idea of living on Mars is still a long way off, but the University of California team hopes its nanoscale nanoscale framework could be used to reduce pollution on Earth. On Mars, carbon dioxide is the only reasonable choice to make abundant natural fuel. On Earth, capturing carbon dioxide from the air and turning it into energy can make a big difference to the environment. It is also a very far-reaching goal, but at least the possibility of successful implementation on Earth is still much higher.
And in the long run, this NASA-funded research could really make a big difference. " For a distant space mission, you need to pay attention to the issue of cargo volume, " Yang said. " Biological systems have the advantage of being self-produced: you don't have to carry them around too much. That's why our bio-hybrid version is so exciting ."