The latest research aims to use synthetic biology to replicate the process.
Professor Cogdell added: "We are working to devise an analogous robust chemical system that could replicate photosynthesis artificially on a grand scale. This artificial leaf would create solar collectors that produce a fuel, as opposed to electricity."
The artificial system could also improve on natural photosynthesis to make better use of the sun's energy. By stripping back photosynthesis to a level of basic reactions, much higher levels of energy conversion could be possible.
Ultimately, success in this research could allow the development of a sustainable carbon neutral economy arresting the increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere from fossil fuel burning.
Professor Howard Griffiths, University of Cambridge, is also hoping to enhance the potential of photosynthesis by focusing on an enzyme called RuBisCO (Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase oxygenase). It's a key enzyme in photosynthesis that allows plants to use atmospheric carbon dioxide to create energy-rich molecules, such as simple sugars.
Some plants have evolved mechanisms that act like biological turbochargers to concentrate carbon dioxide around the enzyme for optimal photosynthesis. This boosts growth and production. Professor Griffiths' research is developing a deeper understanding of these biological turbochargers so that they may one day be incorporated into crops to increase yields.
Professor Griffiths explains: "We want to improve the operating efficiency of RuBisCO in crops and we believe algae may one day provide the answer. Their turbocharger is contained within a structure called the algal pyrenoid which could be utilised in a crop's photosynthetic structures. By combining algal and pla
|Contact: Rob Dawson|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council