World’s first man-made photosynthetic ‘leaf’ could produce oxygen for astronauts

via Mother Nature Network

via Mother Nature Network

Breakthrough technology could make long-distance space travel feasible, clean our air here on Earth, and even combat global warming.

To say that an invention has the potential to change the world is often an overstatement, but here’s a case where the phrase seems to fit: Royal College of Art graduate Julian Melchiorri has created the world’s first man-made, biologically functional “leaf,” reports Dezeen.

To get your mind around just how world-altering this invention could be, first understand just how important normal vegetation is for life on Earth. As the only organisms capable of converting sunlight into food, plants are the powerhouses that produce all of the sustenance on Earth. This process also produces the oxygen that we breath, and scrubs the air of pollutants and excess carbon dioxide, and helps to regulate the planet’s climate.

Melchiorri’s invention can potentially duplicate many of these benefits with a man-made material. In fact, this artificial leaf could potentially do even more, by allowing our astronauts to travel longer distances in space and possibly even colonize new planets.

“Plants don’t grow in zero gravity,” explained 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.”

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