He adds, "In natural plant systems, too much carbon dioxide shuts down photosynthesis, but ours does not have this limitation due to the bacterial-based photo-capture strategy."
There are many benefits to being able to create a plant-like foam.
"You can convert the sugars into many different things, including ethanol and other biofuels," Wendell explains. "And it removes carbon dioxide from the air, but maintains current arable land for food production."
"This new technology establishes an economical way of harnessing the physiology of living systems by creating a new generation of functional materials that intrinsically incorporates life processes into its structure," says Dean Montemagno. "Specifically in this work it presents a new pathway of harvesting solar energy to produce either oil or food with efficiencies that exceed other biosolar production methodologies. More broadly it establishes a mechanism for incorporating the functionality found in living systems into systems that we engineer and build."
The next step for the team will be to try to make the technology feasible for large-scale applications like carbon capture at coal-burning power plants.
"This involves developing a strategy to extract both the lipid shell of the algae (used for biodiesel) and the cytoplasmic contents (the guts), and reusing these proteins in the foam," says Wendell. "We are also looking into other short carbon molecules we can make by altering the enzyme cocktail in the foam."
Montemagno adds, "It is a significant step in delivering the promise of nanotechnology."
|Contact: Wendy Beckman|
University of Cincinnati