During the 20th century, the use of fertilizers has increased rapidly due to the process called “Green Revolution” and to cater to the global food requirements.
In the 21st century also, the food requirements are rising continuously due to an ever growing population.
To satisfy the food requirements, the researchers from Harvard University have presented their innovative method during the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco. The bionic leaf imitates the natural leaf behavior and splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.
How the bionic leaf makes fertilizer?
Nitrogen is the key compound for manufacturing fertilizers, however, the compound can be accessed by few bacterias. Hence the researchers have developed special proteins that will split nitrogen molecules from the air and combine with hydrogen to generate ammonia. The ammonia present in the soil acts as a fertilizer and allow plants to absorb nitrogen and grow.
The bacteria named Xanthobacter autotrophicus is used to develop bionic leaf. These bacteria were genetically modified to utilize hydrogen and mix it with carbon dioxide to produce bio-plastic.
The bacteria then deposits the bio-plastic which can be used as a hydrogen store and can be combined with nitrogen to produce ammonia. This is the new type of fertilizer, when tested on the farm it has produced 150 percent larger crops.
Daniel Nocera, the lead author of the study has earlier used Ralstonia eutropha to utilize hydrogen and carbon dioxide from the air and produce hydrocarbon fuels. About 6 years ago, Nocera has designed a bionic leaf that split water molecules into hydrogen using sunlight. During this experiment, Nocera was trying to isolate hydrogen and oxygen for generating fuel and electricity.
The bionic leaf developed by Nocera had many benefits such as producing fertilizer from the farm soil and help the developing countries to enhance the crop production.
Due to cost efficiency, this leaf could possibly replace traditional fertilizers and help the farmers in poor and under-developed regions to produce their own fertilizer.