A recent experiment might bring some serious competition for plants. Researchers are trying to make bacteria perform photosynthesis and turn molecules into different materials or sources of energy. By introducing these bacteria to certain chemicals, they managed to make them produce fuels which were able to absorb sunlight.
Making bacteria perform synthetic photosynthesis
Photosynthesis is the process which involves using sunlight to turn carbon dioxide (in the case of plants) into different molecules. Now, researchers hope they might make bacteria act like plants. This means that they should be able to convert molecules into different molecules after being exposed to light. Then, the resulting molecules might be used as fuels, or turned into plastic materials.
Researchers took the bacteria Moorella thermoacetica and introduced it to molecules of cadmium salt and cysteine, an amino acid. Then, they observed how the bacteria took atoms of Sulphur from the amino acid, and combined it with the cadmium atoms. The result was cadmium sulfide, which can absorb light.
The process might be more efficient than the photosynthesis performed by plants
The bacteria is able to use carbon dioxide to produce acetic acid, everything taking place in its respiratory processes. However, thanks to the cadmium sulfide, it could collect sunlight, harvest its energy, and supercharge the production of acetic acid.
This process might be, in fact, more effective than the photosynthesis performed by plants. Scientists observed how cadmium sulfide worked better than chlorophyll. This chemical is used by plants to stock light and then produce energy, but the artificial compound in the bacteria was more efficient.
The discovery sounds like a great achievement, and it’s definitely a scientific highlight. However, synthetic photosynthesis might not be the best solution. Scientists have just started combining chemistry and biology, and there might be many other better options which haven’t been explored yet.
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