A Big, Big ‘Leaf’ for Mankind: Synthetic Leaf Produces Oxygen

Julian Melchiorri, a graduate student at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, UK, has created a synthetic biological leaf which is proven to produce oxygen.

Like real plants, his new discovery can be used on the inside and outside of buildings to provide fresh oxygen.

 More importantly NASA will find his invention handy for space travel and to aid newcomers seeking to inhabit new planets.

The future is looking bright.

It sounds like something out of Star Trek flick, or a Dr. Who program, or even something out of a Star Wars film.

But this is real and the news is a real breath of fresh air – yes, the full pun is intended.

Melchiorri, who is now making headlines all around the world, introduced his synthetic leaf invention recently to his classmates and professors in the Innovation Design Engineering course at the RCA, in conjunction with a silk lab at Tufts University.

Before the interesting news, let’s outline his equation: 6CO2 + 6H2O + --(Sunlight Energy)--> C6H12O6 + 6O2.

Sure, it may seem boring and technical, but it gets way better once we get past the true details on the science side of things.

And while critics say his new discovery may not work on new planets or during space travel missions, he has plenty of counter-arguments. 

“The material is extracted directly from the fibers of silk,” Melchiorri explains during an interview. “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.”


He adds, “"Silk Leaf is the first man-made biological leaf…It is very light, low energy-consuming, it's completely biological.”

He also has plans on developing his man-made leaf on lamp shades, which of course will provide oxygen while lighting-up homes.

His ideal client for his new invention is NASA.

NASA has been long seeking ways to send astronauts, or space adventurers if you will, to new planets to explore and colonize if possible.

This new synthetic leaf just may just be a step into the journey of man discovering a new frontier in our solar system and beyond.

“Plants don't grow in zero gravity,” says Melchiorri. “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.”

 So, this is a brilliant invention for the future, here at home and for those we send into space. This new synthetic leaf that produces oxygen will no doubt go down in history.