Man-made Leaf Produces Oxygen to Help Astronauts Breathe

By: | December 24th, 2015

Image courtesy

Astronauts on the International Space Station need a continuous supply of oxygen. Most of the spacecraft carry their own supply of oxygen with them, and a few also have oxygen generators. But an indefinite supply of oxygen isn’t really possible.

But a man-made leaf could be the key to an endless supply of oxygen using light and water to keep astronauts breathing on long space journeys.

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Chloroplasts (Image courtesy

A student from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, Julian Melchiorri, has created the first biologically functional artificial leaf. The leaf uses carbon dioxide, water, and light to release oxygen.

The leaf consists of chloroplast extracted from plant cells. Chloroplast is that part of a plant cell where photosynthesis takes place. The chloroplast is suspended in a silk matrix so that it can still act like a real leaf but has more durability and longevity.

The artificial leaf would not only be useful in space but can also act as an air filter to provide a breath of fresh air in living spaces on earth. In the future, buildings could exhale fresh air with just a thin coating of this leaf material.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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