The man-made “plant” can create endless oxygen using light and water!
Pioneers have been dreaming about living in outer space for eons, but there’s always been one major roadblock: securing a long-term oxygen supply. Toting around an indefinite supply of O2 isn’t feasible, and obtaining oxygen from plants in space is difficult, as green vegetation does not thrive in zero gravity environments.
But thanks to graduate student Julian Melchiorri, long-term space travel could soon be a reality. Melchiorri worked with Dezeen and MINI Frontiers to produce the Silk Leaf, an invention capable of sustaining life.
The Silk Leaf is a synthetic biological leaf that will absorb water and carbon dioxide and produce oxygen similar to the way a plant does. It was developed through Melchiorri’s Design Engineering course in collaboration with the Tufts University silk lab. As Gizmodo shares, the leaves consist of chloroplasts suspended in a cast made out of silk proteins.
“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 said.
The designer notes that he was inspired from the beginning to build off of nature’s own system and take advantage of a proven method.
“NASA is researching different methods of producing oxygen for long-distance space journeys. This material could enable us to live in space and explore further than we can now,” he stated.
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