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Forget global warming, Artificial Photosynthesis breakthrough is here to save us

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

With increasing levels of harmful gases being released into the environment, the future, indeed, looks bleak.

Well, what about if we could ‘revamp’ those harmful gases into some highly useful things, like biofuels  or plastics?

The good thing is that a group of researchers have essentially taken cues from Mother Nature itself, and thus accomplished the impossible!

By the way, how have the scientists managed to achieve such a remarkable feat?

Here’s how:

The researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed the revolutionary system which essentially mimics photosynthesis.

The system collects Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gases before they are let loose into the atmosphere and converts them into acetate, a basic building block for organic compounds.

Then, the acetate can be used to manufacture a diverse array of chemicals, drugs and alternative fuels.

All this is done through creation of an ‘artificial forest’ of Silicon and Titanium Dioxide nanowires, which are seeded with bacterial populations.

Scientists believe that system has the potential to revolutionize the chemical and oil industry. The system can produce chemicals and fuels in a totally renewable way, rather than extracting them from deep below the ground.

So, is it time to say goodbye to greenhouse gases?

As of now, the system boasts of an efficiency of 0.38 per cent, close to the natural process of photosynthesis. However, researchers believe that soon they would manage to increase it to 3 per cent. And, the system would be embraced on a large scale once it begins to gain traction.

“Once we can reach a conversion efficiency of 10 per cent in a cost-effective manner, the technology should be commercially viable,” said Christopher Chang, a chemist and biosynthesis expert.

The environment can hopefully breathe easy now.

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Team Led by Indian-Origin Scientist Converts Plant Matter Into Chemicals

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A team led by an Indian-origin scientist from Sandia National Laboratories in California has demonstrated a new technology based on bio-engineered bacteria that can make it economically feasible to produce chemicals from renewable plant sources.
Lignin, a tough plant matter, is converted into chemicals. Pixabay

A team led by an Indian-origin scientist from Sandia National Laboratories in California has demonstrated a new technology based on bio-engineered bacteria that can make it economically feasible to produce chemicals from renewable plant sources.

The technology converts tough plant matter, called lignin, for wider use of the energy source and making it cost competitive.

“For years, we have been researching cost-effective ways to break down lignin and convert it into valuable platform chemicals,” Sandia bioengineer Seema Singh said.

“We applied our understanding of natural lignin degraders to E. coli because that bacterium grows fast and can survive harsh industrial processes,” she added in the work published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America”.

Lignin is the component of plant cell walls that gives them their incredible strength. It is brimming with energy but getting to that energy is so costly and complex that the resulting biofuel can’t compete economically with other forms of transportation energy.

A team led by an Indian-origin scientist from Sandia National Laboratories in California has demonstrated a new technology based on bio-engineered bacteria that can make it economically feasible to produce chemicals from renewable plant sources.
Scientists successfully convert plant matter into chemicals. Pixabay

Once broken down, lignin has other gifts to give in the form of valuable platform chemicals that can be converted into nylon, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other valuable products.

Singh and her team have solved three problems with turning lignin into platform chemicals: cost, toxicity and speed.

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Engineering solutions like these, which overcome toxicity and efficiency issues have the potential to make biofuel production economically viable.

“Now we can work on producing greater quantities of platform chemicals, engineering pathways to new end products, and considering microbial hosts other than E. coli,” Singh (IANS)