Engineering photosynthesis with DNA to solve the energy crisis


Believe it or not, scientists have just completed an experiment that could play a part in solving the world's energy crisis. They had to go to some pretty crazy extremes to do it, but they've worked out a way to use self-assembling DNA and lab-designed light-absorbing molecules to create artificial photosynthesis.

The Sun floods the Earth with enough energy in a day to meet all of our energy needs for an entire year. Ever since the inception of the solar power industry, the goal has been to collect as much of that energy as possible. You might call it inevitable, then, that scientists would begin to look into the properties of plants, which have evolved to process solar energy with near-perfect efficiency.

That's all well and good, but not everyone wants to wear a plant just to charge their phone. Now, thanks to researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, you likely won't have to. They've discovered a way to create self-assembling, microscopic solar cells. A DNA helix forms the backbone of the invention, keeping in place the lab-grown photosynthetic molecules. The solar cell then feeds its collected energy to a porphyrin unit that channels it to where it needs to go.

The crazy result of this is a microscopic layer of solar energy-gathering antennae which could very well be applied to the surface of a phone, a tablet, or pair of AR glasses. Basically anything and everything that needs juice could supply its own, thanks to a microscopic layer of lab-grown solar cells. Welcome to the energy-independent future, folks.

American Chemical Society, via

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