What do you get when you cross chloroplasts with silk? Stumped? The headline probably gave it away — that’s right, you get leaves. Man-made leaves that produce oxygen.
Julian Melchiorri developed silk matrices, into which he inserted real live chloroplasts to create a sustainable source of oxygen that could be used for space travel. Dezeen, a design website, interviewed Melchiorri in a video where the inventor describes the biological and technological aspects of the leaf.
“Silk Leaf is the first biological man-made leaf,” Melchiorri told Dezeen. “And by that I mean it is the first material that uses photosynthesis.”
Melchiorri says he used a material extracted from silk to make the leaves. This material, Melchiorri explains, “has an amazing property in that it stabilizes organelles.”
Chloroplasts, which are organelles, definitely need stabilizing if you want them to start performing photosynthesis — which is how they create oxygen. If NASA plans deep space voyages, these Silk Leaves might be an alternative source of long-sustaining oxygen for astronauts.
“This material could allow us to explore space much further than we can now,” Melchiorri told Dezeen.