What do you need to grow plants? The first conditions that come to us are water, light and earth… An implacable logic that has been applied since the dawn of time by gardeners and farmers, with the exception of a few plants that grow in the dark, such as button mushrooms, which are also “fungal”. But American scientists seem to have invented a technique that would make it possible to produce plants in the dark. This in order to produce more and meet the growing demand of the populations. The American technique could therefore revolutionize agriculture and offer additional production to farmers. Presentation.
How do plants grow?
Before discovering this new growth technique, you should know that plants grow thanks to photosynthesis. This process consists, for plants, in using the energy transmitted by the sun (or light) and converting organic matter into energy. The researchers believe that this technique, which has evolved a lot over time, would not be efficient because it would only convert a tiny part of the solar energy that the plant receives. For them, it would only represent1% of solar energy transformed into biomass.
What do American scientists propose?
In a study published in the journal Nature and called “ An inorganic-biological hybrid artificial photosynthesis system for energy-efficient food production »the University of California team proposes to find a way to channel solar energy differently. They dubbed their technique “artificial photosynthesis”. In their report, they explain what prompted them to imagine this new technique: “Artificial photosynthesis systems are proposed as an efficient alternative route to capture CO2 to produce additional food for growing global demand.”
What is “Artificial Photosynthesis”?
The method invented by American scientists has two stages. The first consists in capturing the light thanks to a solar panel, and not naturally… This energy is transformed into electricity which is then used to transform H2O and CO2 into dioxygen and acetate. Plants feed on this acetate which allows them to grow without direct contact with sunlight. One of the scientists Martha Orozco-Cardenas even imagine, thanks to this technique, being able in the future to grow tomatoes in the darkness of the planet Mars; Elon Musk might be interested!
The researchers explain in their study “that by powering electrolysis with photovoltaic cells, the conversion of sunlight and CO2 into food in our system (photovoltaic cells, electrolysis, acetate, yeast) is almost 18 times more efficient than typical food production for the conversion of solar energy into biomass”. This technique could be used in the places where the crops are difficult to grow, which would make the crops accessible to disadvantaged populations.
Our paper “A hybrid inorganic–biological artificial photosynthesis system for energy-efficient food production” is out @NatureFood! We propose a new technology for energy efficient food production independent of biological photosynthesis. 1/👇https://t.co/3H090oMn8J pic.twitter.com/bs1Csfh3uU
—Robert Jinkerson (@JinkersonLab) June 23, 2022
Food demand is exploding at the same time as demography, but also because of global warming and occasional hazards such as the war in Ukraine; the attic of Europe is literally blocked and for a few years probably… The American technique could therefore provide an additional cultivation solution in all countries of the world, regardless of weather conditions.