Improving natural photosynthesis to make new fuels and boost crop production is the focus of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded research presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting today. It could see us one step closer to bottling the sun's energy or turbocharging plants to produce bumper crops.
Photosynthesis allows biological systems to take energy from the sun and use it to produce food and fuel. It is one of the most important biological processes on earth but it's not as efficient as it could be. Natural trade-offs results in less than 1% efficiency in many important crops and so there is significant scope for improvement.
Scientists from the UK and US are working to engineer or enhance photosynthesis to benefit food and fuel production.
Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive of BBRSC, explains why funding this research is vital: "We are facing global challenges in food and energy security that must be addressed. Improving photosynthesis within plants, or externally using synthetic biology, would bring huge benefits."
The artificial 'leaf'
Professor Richard Cogdell from the University of Glasgow is taking a synthetic biology approach in a bid to create an artificial 'leaf' capable of converting the sun's energy to liquid fuel.
Professor Cogdell explains: "The sun gives its energy away for free but making use of it is tricky. We can use solar panels to make electricity but it's intermittent and difficult to store. What we are trying to do is take the energy from the sun and trap it so that it can be used when it is needed most."
The researchers hope to use a chemical reaction similar to photosynthesis but in an artificial system. Plants take solar energy, concentrate it and use it to
|Contact: Rob Dawson|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council