Cyborg bacteria can harvest solar energy to produce fuel
Los Angeles: Scientists have created cyborg bacteria – microbes covered with tiny, highly efficient solar panels – that are better than plants for harnessing the Sun’s energy to produce fuel from carbon dioxide and water.
Photosynthesis provides energy for the vast majority of life on earth. However, chlorophyll, the green pigment that plants use to collect sunlight, is relatively ineffective.
To allow humans to capture more of the sun’s energy than natural photosynthesis, scientists have taught bacteria to cover themselves in small, highly efficient solar panels to produce useful compounds.
“Instead of relying on ineffective chlorophyll in sunlight harvesting, I taught how bacteria grow and cover their bodies with tiny semiconductor nanocrystals,” said Kelsey K Sakimoto, University of California, Berkeley In the United States.
“These nanocrystals are much more effective than chlorophyll and can be grown at a fraction of the cost of fabricated solar panels,” Sakimoto said.
Humans are always looking to find alternatives to fossil fuels as a source of energy and raw materials for chemical production.
Many scientists have been working to create artificial photosynthetic systems to generate renewable energy and simple organic chemicals that use sunlight.
Progress has been made, but the systems are not efficient enough for the commercial production of fuels and raw materials.
New research focuses on the operation of inorganic semiconductors that can capture sunlight for organisms such as bacteria that can then use energy to produce useful chemicals from carbon dioxide and water.
Scientists working with a natural bacteria, non-photosynthetic, thermoacetic Moorella, which in the normal course of respiration, the product of acetic acid from carbon dioxide (CO2).
Acetic acid is a versatile chemical that can be easily converted into various fuels, polymers, pharmaceuticals and basic chemicals through complementary and genetically modified bacteria.
Researchers fed cadmium and the amino acid cysteine, which contains a sulfur atom, bacteria, have been synthesized cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanoparticles, which function as solar panels on their surfaces.
The hybrid body, M thermoacetic-CdS, product of acetic acid from CO2, water and light.
“Once covered with these small solar panels, bacteria can synthesize food, fuel and plastics, all use of solar energy,” Sakimoto said.
“These bacteria outnumber natural photosynthesis,” he said.
Bacteria operate in more than 80% and the process is self-replicating and self-healing, making the waste technology zero.
“Synthetic biology and the possibility of expanding the range of CO2 reduction products will be essential to put the technology in place, or one of the many substitutes for the petrochemical industry,” Sakimoto said.