Leaves are an essential part of a plant that is capable of an extremely complex process called photosynthesis. They can capture the energy from the sunlight and turn it into chemical energy. This energy transformation will then be used to fuel the activity of the entire plant. This process is one of the many miracles of nature. As of recently, it also served as a model for scientists to revolutionize the medical field. In the future, we might as well expect to grow medicine in artificial leaves.
A Dutch team of scientists from the Eindhoven University of Technology is on the brink of a major discovery. They were inspired by nature’s way of producing its own food out of pure energy. Consequently, they started experimenting with a type of material that can work similarly to leaves. These are known as a luminescent solar concentrators.
The engineers used these LSCs to create their first prototype that can function just like leaves. However, instead of chemical energy, these artificial leaves will be able to work as ecological laboratories in miniature. They will be able to capture enough sunlight to produce powerful reactions. The result will be medicinal drugs, and people will be able to harvest them anywhere they want. This way, scientists will no longer have to invest large financial efforts to produce vital products. Furthermore, this discovery will eliminate fossil fuels that harm the environment.
Until recently, the LSCs couldn’t offer such a service because the sunlight didn’t generate enough energy. However, nature is the living proof that this project is not impossible. The leaves use antenna molecules to absorb energy and deliver it to its reaction centers. Here is the place where the chemical reactions are created, and the result ends up to be food for the plant.
To recreate this phenomenon in the laboratory, the scientists altered LSCs by implanting thin channels that pump up the needed chemicals for producing drugs. The new type of LSCs is capable of amplifying the sunlight enough to make chemical reactions possible.
The final product will probably take years to become entirely functional. However, scientists are excited about this new technology. The moment these artificial leaves enter the market, they will save the industry large financial efforts and time. All that people are going to need is a miniature factory and a little bit of sunlight to regain their health.
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