Thursday, August 25, 2016

More Efficient Than Nature

Wow, this, I guess like every other article I have read so far, is so cool.  I love the idea and concept of a bionic leaf, even if I have sliiiiiight PTSD from the photosynthesis and cell respiration unit--trying to keep all the details of each process straight and separate from each other was hard!  I am realizing that I definitely need a good refresher on all of that though, because when I read that the water-splitting molecule in this artificial process is an alloy of cobalt and phosphorus, my immediate thought was, how does that compare to the water-splitting molecule in natural photosynthesis?  But I couldn’t remember what that molecule is, or if we even learned what it is.

I found the whole idea of being able to take a natural process and tweak things to make it more efficient to be very interesting.  I guess the purpose of this process is different from that of natural photosynthesis--generating alcohol instead of ATP--but it seems like nature would want to be as efficient as possible.  So why isn’t natural photosynthesis more efficient?  Why is it that with a little (or maybe a lot) of messing with nature, scientists were able to make a process ten times more efficient?

Some of the other questions I had were more basic, like what does the bionic leaf look like?  I always find being able to visualize something to be helpful in remembering it, but there was no image of the leaf.  At first I was picturing a leaf that is bionic, but then read in the article that it is called a “leaf” because of its “melding of biology and technology.”  I figured the biology part was the whole idea of using a process similar to photosynthesis, and that it ended there, meaning it probably doesn’t actually look like a leaf.  But I decided to look it up on Google Images just to make sure, and in all the pictures I found, it looked like a little bionic leaf, just as I had originally imagined!  This leads me to wonder, where are these leaves going to be used in our society?  Are we going to start having artists make tree sculptures in cities so that these bionic leaves can be attached to them?  That would be cool!  Or would it be more productive to just make large panels and put them on the roofs of buildings and in fields, like we do solar panels?  If the desired end result of this leaf is alcohol that can be used for fuel, is it going to be produced in liquid form, because it would be at air temperature?  If so, where is the liquid going to be collected?  In little individual compartments for each leaf, or would there be a way to pipe it to one larger tank? I’m very curious as to how these leaves are going to be incorporated into society.

1 comment:

  1. I also read this article and fully agree with your statements about the photosynthesis unit. I don't really remember much in detail about photosynthesis or cell respiration. Reading your response did confuse me though as I thought electricity was used to split the water apart not a molecule. Moving on from that I was also surprised that natural photosynthesis isn't as efficient as the bionic leaf. I also hadn't thought about how the bionic leaf could be used in society but I think your ideas sound realistic as setting the bionic leaves up as a tree sculpture or in a solar panel layout, whichever would be the most effective.