menu

RCA Student Invents Artificial Leaf that Can Produce Oxygen

Cities

The synthetic material can photosynthesize and survive at zero gravity, creating new opportunities for space exploration

Vashti Hallissey
  • 30 july 2014


The Silk Leaf, by RCA graduate Julian Melchiorri, is the first manmade material that can perform photosynthesis. It has huge implications for science and technology and it could also make long-distance space travel a possibility.

The leaf contains chloroplasts taken from real plant cells. These are suspended in a silk protein material and when the material comes into contact with water and light, it converts it to oxygen, just like a natural leaf.

Melchiorri explains in a video made for Dezeen and MINI Frontiers:

The material is extracted directly from the fibers of silk. This material has an amazing property of stabilizing molecules. I extracted chloroplasts from plant cells and placed them inside this silk protein. As an outcome I have the first photosynthetic material that is living and breathing as a leaf does.

The project was made as part of the Innovation Design Engineering course at the Royal College of Art in London, in collaboration with Tufts University silk lab.

At the moment, there isn’t a system that can provide astronauts with enough oxygen to travel far into Space. Melchiorri’s invention could be the answer to this problem, by converting water and artificial light into the oxygen that astronauts need to survive.

Melchiorri says in the video:

Plants don’t grow in zero gravity. NASA is researching different ways to produce oxygen for long-distance space journeys to let us live in space. This material could allow us to explore space much further than we can now.

The material could also transform cities, making buildings capable of generating their own oxygen.

visualisation_of_photosynthetic_filters_for_buildings_by_julian_melchiorri.jpg

In the video, Melchiorri states:

It could [also] be used for outdoor applications. So facades, ventilation systems. You can absorb air from outside, pass it through these biological filters and then bring oxygenated air inside.

The Silk Leaf is an incredible invention which could mean that space is no longer the “final frontier.” One day, we may be able to measure our flights in light years rather than air miles.

Julian Melchiorri

[h/t] Gizmodo, Dezeen

Images: Dezeen

Cities
Trending

Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Arts & Culture
Mobile august 26, 2016

Get A Better Idea Of How You Are Wasting Your Time

The TouchTime app is trying to revolutionize personal task management by providing detailed insight on how to be more efficient

Culture august 26, 2016

London Telephone Box Repurposed As A Tiny Mobile Repair Shop

Tools and supplies to replace broken screens or damage are neatly stowed away in these micro-workrooms

Trending

Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Retail: Technology Primer

See All
Design august 26, 2016

Conceptual Sportswear Created Out Of Futuristic Condom Material

A Dutch fashion designer is experimenting with new methods and fabrics to make high performance clothing

Fashion august 26, 2016

Fashionable Tassel Will Ensure You Never Lose Your Valuables Again

The device is fashion meets connected tech, that will help you keep track of your belongings at all times

Syndicated august 26, 2016

Would You Wear Wool Shoes To Save The Environment?

As demand for wool shoes grows, a number of US footwear brands are heading directly to the source: the sheep pastures of New Zealand

Sustainability august 26, 2016

Self-Healing Material Is Fashioned Out Of Squid Teeth

Penn State researchers have devised a new textile that uses organic proteins

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Search Engine Turns Your Own Drawings Into Photos

This image-matching software accepts hand-made sketches instead of keywords

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed august 24, 2016

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs august 25, 2016

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Our Future of Work vision is a service that allows companies to assemble and deliver welcome packets that are uniquely focused on the concept of growth

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Illustrator Interprets The Experiences Of Blind Travelers

Artist Alby Letoy creates drawings of poignant travel memories for the visually impaired

Advertising august 26, 2016

Clickbait Titles Used For The Good Of Charity

An agency devised an unlikely campaign that uses clickbait as a positive force to drive awareness to nonprofit initiatives

Advertising august 26, 2016

The Best In Eye-Catching Olympics Campaigns

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the best advertising moments off the field

Work august 26, 2016

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Arts & Culture august 26, 2016

Transforming Light Waves Into A New Art Form

An artist uses glass treated with layers of metallic coatings to create a unique installation called lightpaintings

INSIGHTS COVERAGE

Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games
READ NOW

Design august 26, 2016

This Windbreaker Lets You Explore The Outdoors While Charging Your Phone

The apparel includes solar panels that allow the wearer to stay connected through the power of renewable energy

Asia august 26, 2016

The Goal Of This Game Is To Not Get Laid Off From Your Job

A hit mobile app has you working really, really hard to not get fired as you climb the corporate ladder

Advertising august 26, 2016

Movie Critic Bot Guides Viewers Through Festival Offerings

The Toronto International Film Festival has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help attendants curate their schedule

No search results found.