Plastic without fossil fuels and “artificial photosynthesis”

Cambridge researchers created a device that can produce carbon-neutral fuel the same way the plants do. It is a significant breakthrough on the way to “artificial photosynthesis”. The standalone device can convert sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into clean energy – oxygen and formic acid – wirelessly and without any outside electricity.

Mycorrhizal fungi are organisms that live in symbiosis with plants. They send out gossamer-fine tubes called hyphae, which weave into the tips of plant roots at the cellular level. In this way, individual plants are joined to one another by an underground network – a vast, highly intricate, collaborative structure that has been dubbed the Wood Wide Web. In the future, fungi will be used in a range of new technologies from building materials to sustainable food, packaging products to waste solutions. Only 6-8% of the world’s fungi have so far even been identified.

Microscopic and little known predatory bacteria like Halobacteriovorax are among the world’s most effective hunters and may help humans in fighting diseases. Some experts think that those bacteria could someday serve as a living therapeutic that could help clear drug-resistant germs from patients in whom all other treatments have failed.

After metabolizing sulfur, Rhodospirillum rubrum bacteria gave off ethylene – the key ingredient of plastics which is made from oil and natural gas. The bacteria produce ethylene without needing oxygen, which is important as a mixture of both is explosive. According to the scientists, their discovery may one day help to produce plastics without fossil fuels.