Man Made Biological Leaf Might Allow Us To Live In Space

Man Made Biological Leaf Might Allow Us To Live In Space

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Julian Melchiorri, a student at the Royal College of Art, UK, created a synthetic biological leaf that is capable of producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide and water just like real natural leaves do. His idea came from the lack of conditions for growing real plants in zero gravity, which is a considered one of the biggest obstacles in space exploration.

Plants don’t grow in zero gravity,” explains 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.

[Image Source: Julia Melchiorri]

The main advantage is that using plants to produce oxygen is the most practical way to achieve an environment suitable for sustaining life. Otherwise, the astronauts will need to survive carrying tons of oxygen tanks and depending on the situation, even rationing it. Melchiorri is managing to develop a way to facilitate survival while eliminating the obstacles of space travel.

What the student created is a more efficient leaf, which uses the extracted chloroplasts of real plant cells that were suspended in a material made with silk protein. Thus, when in contact with light and water, it is capable of producing oxygen without suffering the effects of zero gravity as would happen with other vegetables.

[Image Source: Julia Melchiorri]

My idea was to use the efficiency of nature in a man-made environment,” he explained. “I created some lighting out of this material, using the light to illuminate the house but at the same time to create oxygen for us.”