Bionic Leaf the Answer To End Global Hunger?
To help spur the next green revolution amid the food crisis that looms in the modern world today, a group of researchers invented an amazing artificial leaf. Widely known as the bionic leaf, it uses bacteria, sunlight, water and air to make fertilizer in the very soil where crops are grown.
The incredible invention was headed by Daniel Nocera, Ph.D., from Harvard University, who asserted the great potential of the bionic leaf in solving the global food crisis especially benefiting emerging and developing nations.
Nocera highlighted that the bionic leaf is helpful for countries which have insufficient resources to make and deliver fertilizer, such as the Asian nations.
Nocera said, “But if I said that now you’ve got to do it in a village in India onsite with dirty water – forget it. Poorer countries in the emerging world don’t always have the resources to do this. We should be thinking of a distributed system because that’s where it’s really needed.”
The team presented the study at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.
Bionic Leaf To The Rescue?
The mass use of fertilizer contributed to a cultural boom in the 1960’s. In fact, it saved millions of lives specifically in Asia. However, the undeniable fact of growing population that is expected to swell by more than 2 billion people by 2050, could worsen food crises. That is why this research comes into the picture. Its key aim is to boost crop yields to avoid clearing even more land for farming.
How it Works
The bionic leaf is an amazing device that, when exposed to sunlight, mimics a natural leaf by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. This led to the development of a bionic leaf that pairs the water-splitting catalyst with the bacteria Ralstonia eutropha, which consumes hydrogen and takes carbon dioxide out of the air to make liquid fuel.
In addition, Nocera’s team has designed a system in which Xanthobacter bacteria fix hydrogen from the artificial leaf and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make a bioplastic that the bacteria store inside themselves as fuel.
Nocera explained that a bug will be introduced in the soil and then the bug pulls nitrogen from the air and uses the bioplastic. This will then drive the fixation cycle to make ammonia for fertilizing crops.
The team used the artificial leaf in growing radishes for five crop cycles. The results were amazing.
The team found that vegetables receiving the bionic-leaf-derived fertilizer weigh 150 percent more than the control crops.