One of the persistent challenges of manned space exploration is that pesky lack of oxygen throughout much of the universe. Here on Earth, trees & other flowers do us a true solid by taking in our bad breath and changing it back to fresh, O2.
So what if we could take those biological oxygen factories into space with us, but without all the land, sun, water, soil, & gravity that forests tend to require? this is often the purpose where NASA & Elon Musk should probably start giving attention.
Royal College of Art graduate Julian Melchiorri has created the primary man-made, biologically functional leaf that takes in CO2 , water, and light & releases oxygen. The leaf consists of chloroplasts — the a part of a plant cell where photosynthesis happens — suspended in body made from silk protein.
“This material has a tremendous property of stabilizing (the chloroplast) organelles,” Melchiorri says in video below. “As an outcome I even have the primary photosynthetic material that’s living &d breathing as a leaf does.”
In addition to its potential value to space-travel , Melchiorri also imagines the technology literally providing a breath of fresh air to indoor & outdoor spaces here on Earth. The facades of buildings & lampshades might be made to exhale fresh air with just a skinny coating of the leaf material.
But perhaps better of all, a man-made breathing leaf might be the key to not just space-travel but space colonization. No need’ to find out the way how to till that dry, red Martian dirt to urge some nice leafy trees to grow; we could just slap them on the inside of the colony’s dome & puff away.