Green technology: the man-made leaf that can produce oxygen

31 July 2014 | OVO Energy

Silk leaf

Here at OVO we’re always keeping our eye out for the latest cutting-edge tech that might benefit the environment. That’s why we’re incredibly excited about the news that Julian Melchiorri, a design student at the Royal College of Art, has created the first man-made, biologically functional leaf.  Christened ‘The Silk Leaf’, it’s the ultimate in ‘green’ technology in more ways than one. 

The leaf contains chloroplasts taken from real plant cells, which are suspended in a silk protein material. When this comes into contact with carbon dioxide, water and light, it converts it into oxygen, just like a real plant. 

The advantages are obvious. Melchiorri quite rightly suggests that his invention could have huge implications for space travel, providing a renewable supply of oxygen to astronauts and allowing them to undertake longer journeys than previously possible.

It also raises the possibility of colonising other planets. Fancy moving to Mars? You won’t have to worry about cultivating forests on that inhospitable Martian terrain. Just chuck a few of these little guys down there and hey presto - you've got lots of lovely oxygen to play with. 

Personally, however, we’re most excited in what it could mean for the environment here on Earth. Everything from lampshades to curtains could be coated with Silk Leaf technology, giving a very literal breath of fresh air to your interior design. On a larger scale, by integrating this sort of tech into buildings you could reduce their carbon footprint, theoretically turning a skyscraper into a fifty story, oxygen-producing plant. 

Our hats go off to Mr Melchiorri - we hope to see this unbe-leaf-able (sorry) invention everywhere in the future.

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