Scientists at Arizona State University have combined biology and electronics to create the world's first bionicphotosynthetic energy system. Future applications of their technology could lead to multiple technologicaladvancements and could help steer the economy of Maricopa County.
ASU chemists Ana Moore, Devens Gust and Thomas Moore; ASU postdoctoral students GaliSteinberg-Yfrach and Edgardo Durantini; and Jean-Louis Rigaud of the Curie Institute in Paris, France, havebuilt a cell-like machine that mimics biological photosynthesis. Reported in Nature magazine April 2, thesystem duplicates the capture of light energy and harnesses this energy for human manipulation. The scientistsmade their breakthrough by using a spinach enzyme.
Nature reported that this scientific team "constructed an artificial membrane-based system that uses light topower the synthesis of ATP." ATP is a carrier of chemical energy in all living organisms.
The scientists devised a chemical system that pumps protons across a membrane from the outside of a cell tothe inside. The pumping action creates an imbalance in proton concentration across the membrane, causingthe protons to flow through a protein and generate biological energy.
Gust said, "The focus is on how to capture solar energy and convert it to a useful form in the same way thatphotosynthesis does. We are trying to see how far we can go in mimicking the way photosynthetic bacteriaconvert light energy into ATP chemical potential. Living organisms have been doing this for billions of years,but this is the first time humans have been able to get it to work."
Jonathan Fink, vice provost for research at ASU, said this technology has potential ramifications that rival theway 1960s research in semiconductors at Stanford University led to Silicon Valley and the way that opticsresearch at the University of Arizona led to a thriving optics industry in southern Arizona.
"The photosynthesis research at ASU could help drive the 21st century economy of Maricopa County," Finksaid.
The Moores, Gust and dozens of ASU students have experimented with artificial photosynthesis for 20years. During the last 15 months, they have validated the ability to copy the process of capturing light energy,the first step in developing an artificial biological power system.
This new technology could potentially allow for the creation of biological computers and for the creation ofnew drugs. The ASU scientists are not in the computer or drug business, but future advancement of theirbasic research could enter computer, drug and many other arenas.
Materials provided by Arizona State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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