The recent advancement in the field of technology has paved the foundation for infusing life into non-living things. Julian Melchiorri, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, claims to have developed a silk leaf that could create oxygen for space travel as well as making life easier on Earth. The leaf was able to develop a silk leaf which can produce oxygen gas in conjunction with a silk lab from Tufts University.
Feed it enough water and light, and the synthetic leaf mimics any leaf you would normally see around and it produces oxygen. The synthetic leaf is manufactured from a matrix of protein, which is extracted from silk and chloroplasts, the organelle that allows plants and algae to perform photosynthesis. To be honest, this could be the solution that experts worldwide have been raking their brains to find. “NASA is researching different ways to produce oxygen for long-distance space journeys to let us live in space,” Melchiorri continued. “This material could allow us to explore space much further than we can now.”
Remember that equation you were familiarized with in early school days:
6CO2 + 6H2O + (Sunlight Energy)-> C6H12O6 + 6O2? As you must have realized that it not account for photosynthesis in its entirety. For photosynthesis to occur, the raw materials water and carbon dioxide have to be present. Light energy triggers the reaction between the two to produce sugar and in the process, oxygen gas is emitted out. So, does silk leaf generate sugar, which is the food of plants, the production of which is the primary and most purpose of photosynthesis? Plants dont perform photosynthesis purely and it is done so they can create food for themselves. There isnt a given statement as to what happens to the carbon and hydrogen that the leaf takes in. Silk Leaf also lacks the vacuoles, stems, and roots that store food in plants.
ISS conducted experimentally proved that, it can grow in outer space. However, it would take a sufficient amount of soil, water, and Silk leaf plants to generate enough oxygen for astronauts.
The writer is electronic engineering student at MUET