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Artificial Photosynthesis Can Produce Food Without Sunshine

For millions of years, Photosynthesis has developed within plants to convert water, carbon dioxide, and solar energy into plant biomass and the meals humans consume. However, this mechanism is incredibly inefficient, as just 1% of the energy from sunlight actually reaches the plant. By adopting artificial Photosynthesis, researchers from the Universities of Delaware and Riverside have discovered a means to produce food without of the requirement for biological Photosynthesis.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Food, used a two-step electrocatalytic process to transform carbon dioxide, energy, and water into acetate, which is the chemical form of vinegar’s primary ingredient. Then, in the dark, organisms that produce food use acetate. This hybrid organic-inorganic system might improve the conversion efficiency of sunlight into food, up to 18 times more efficient for some crops, when combined with solar panels to create the electricity to fuel the electrocatalysis.

According to corresponding author Robert Jinkerson, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering at UC Riverside, “with our approach we hoped to uncover a novel means of manufacturing food that may break through the restrictions imposed by biological Photosynthesis.”

The output of the electrolyzer was tuned to assist the growth of food-producing organisms in order to unite all the parts of the system. Electrolyzers are machines that utilise electricity to transform unusable chemicals and products, such carbon dioxide, into basic resources. The greatest amounts of acetate ever generated in an electrolyzer to date were achieved by increasing the amount of acetate produced while lowering the amount of salt utilised.

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