Goodbye Sunshine

There’s a bright future for farming…  in the dark?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Life on earth depends on the sun. You know it, I know it… FARMERS… KNOW IT. But photosynthesis–how crops use sunlight to synthesize fuel from carbon dioxide and water–is actually kind of inefficient. Plants only convert one percent of solar energy into fuel. Is there a faster alternative to grow sustainably-farmed food?

Enter Elizabeth Hann and colleagues from UC Riverside. First they use solar power to extract carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. Then an electrolyzer converts the carbon dioxide to useful molecules – oxygen, water, and acetate. Finally, plants draw up acetate as fuel, letting us completely BYPASS photosynthesis.

This new process was up to EIGHTEEN times more efficient! It allows plants to grow twenty-four-seven, while pulling carbon from the atmosphere!

Researchers believe it could completely change the way we farm. 

Plus – I’ll save a ton on sunscreen by moving my garden indoors.

Reference: Hann, E. C., Overa, S., Harland-Dunaway, M., Narvaez, A. F., Le, D. N., Orozco-Cárdenas, M. L., Jiao, F., & Jinkerson, R. E. (2022). A hybrid inorganic–biological artificial photosynthesis system for energy-efficient food production. Nature Food, 3(6), 461–471.