On April 16, 2015 the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) published a news release reporting about a new artificial photosynthesis system that can turn carbon dioxide into feedstock for chemical products, including biodegradable plastics, drugs or fuel. Scientists at LBNL and the University of California Berkeley, U.S. have created a hybrid system of semiconducting nanowires and bacteria to mimic the natural photosynthetic process. In this process plants use energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into molecules needed for growth. The new artificial photosynthetic process employs a series of semiconducting nanowires and genetically engineered bacteria. Normally, a plant would absorb carbon dioxide and produce sugar and oxygen. The new system creates acetate, which can be used as a building block for various organic compounds.

The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the environment has been recognized as a major contributor to the global warming problem. Carbon capture and storage technologies are being developed. The new artificial photosynthetic technique could potentially solve the storage problem by putting the captured carbon dioxide to good use.

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LBNL (April 16, 2015). “Major advance in artificial photosynthesis poses win/win for the environment.


Liu, C. et al. (2015). “Nanowire–bacteria hybrids for unassisted solar carbon dioxide fixation to value-added chemicals.Nano Letters (published online April 7, 2015).