Artificial Photosynthesis: Twice as Efficient as the Real ThingS

The artificial leaf is poised to be one of the next big breakthroughs in energy. If we can learn to mimic the biological mechanism by which plants convert solar energy into hydrogen, the sky is the limit. Millions of years of evolution have already proved the worth of photosynthesis, even if it's not all that efficient in its natural state.

And now researchers have created a bionanodevice that not only mimics the mechanism of photosynthesis, but is twice as efficient. They modified the photosynthetic proteins found in cyanobacteria — bacteria which gain their energy through photosynthesis. They frankensteined together proteins from Synechococcus sp. with those from Clostridium acetobutylicum using molecular wire to create a "hybrid biological/organic nanoconstruct" that was more efficient than either on their own.

Modular, stable, and flexible, these constructs could provide a crucial part of solar biofuel production, thanks to the feat of improving on their natural predecessors.

Top image: Benthic Cyanobacteria via UNC Wilmington