Student Creates First Ever Man-Made Biological Leaf

HigherPerspective: —

The “first man-made biological leaf” could enable humans to colonise space from Dezeen on Vimeo.

Another hurdle to prolonged interstellar travel has been passed. RCA Graduate Julian Melchiorri has developed a biological leaf that acts just like a natural one, breathing in carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

“Plants don’t grow in zero gravity,” says Melchiorri. “NASA is researching different ways to produce oxygen for long-distance space journeys to let us live in space. This material could allow us to explore space much further than we can now.”

The Silk Leaf project, which was developed as a part of the Rotal College of Art’s Innovation Design engineering course in collaboration with Tufts University silk lab, consists of chloroplasts suspended in a matrix of silk protein.

“The material is extracted directly from the fibres of silk. This material has an amazing property of stabilising molecules. I extracted chloroplasts from plant cells and placed them inside this silk protein. As an outcome I have the first photosynthetic material that is living and breathing as a leaf does,” Melchiorri explains.

The silk leaf needs only a small amount of light and water in order to work. “It’s very light, low energy-consuming, it’s completely biological” explains Melchiorri.

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