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Silk Leaf – The Synthetic Leaf That Produces Oxygen

A graduate from the Royal College of Art, Julian Melchiorri, claims having created an artificial leaf made of silk and chloroplasts that releases oxygen. He portrays what he calls the silk leaf as the way to go for space travel; according to him, silk leaf could be used to produce oxygen for astronauts out there in space. Feasible, or not?

silk leaf

If most trees die, it would not matter anyway. Why, we now have artificial leaves doing the same job as real ones! Julian Melchiorri from the Royal College of Art alleges to have created a silk leaf capable of manufacturing oxygen gas. The silk leaf is supposed to be used for space travel, and also just to make of the earthly atmosphere a better and nicer place to be in.

Now, what is this leaf made of, you might ask.

It has been engineered from proteins extracted from silk and chloroplasts; hence its name, silk leaf. Chloroplasts are the cell compartments that allow leaves to make oxygen. When light energy hits the chloroplasts, plants are able to split water to produce oxygen. The synthetic silk leaf supposedly has all it takes to generate the life-gas, oxygen. Hard to believe, to be honest. This could be the solution that experts worldwide have been raking their brains to find – the solution to deforestation, that has been gnawing the planet for quite a while now. The dismembered lungs of the planet – aka network of plants – can now sigh in relief, mayhap? Humanity finally did it? Or, does it just sound too good to be true?

Julian Melchiorri explains further that his synthetic leaf is purely biological in nature. He wishes for his invention to render efficiency in a man-made environment. He had previously made some lighting from the material to cater for two needs: lighting the house and manufacturing oxygen for the house. Now, he wants for his silk leaf to reach beyond our horizons: he dreams of it fuelling its way into outer space, feeding the lungs of astronauts with oxygen, boosting space travel like never before. Wow, the man sure is ambitious; out-of-this-world-ambitious.

So, a man-made invention will now serve the purpose of plants? Does silk leaf really fulfill the equation of photosynthesis – the process during which oxygen is released as a by-product, as plants manufacture their food? For photosynthesis to occur, the raw materials water and carbon dioxide have to be present. Light energy triggers the reaction between the two to produce sugar (which is the food of plants, the production of which is the primary purpose of photosynthesis), and, in the process, oxygen gas is emitted out. So, does silk leaf generate sugar? The whole point of photosynthesis is to produce sugar. Silk leaf has not been mentioned to sheltering in its make-up vacuoles that would store the sugar. Where does the sugar go, given that the reaction between water and carbon dioxide gives out sugar?

Seems like the inventor was a bit too enthusiastic to present his super-leaf that he forgot to scientifically explain the idea behind?


One comment

  1. Judy Nommik on

    Can you tell me about how long a silk leaf operates. Does it eventually die or if given what it needs to live will it continue living?


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