Researchers have found a way to bypass the need for biological photosynthesis altogether and create food independent of sunlight by using artificial photosynthesis. The study was published in the journal, Nature Food.
Researchers used a two-step electrocatalytic process to convert carbon dioxide, electricity, and water into acetate, the form of the main component of vinegar. Food-producing organisms then consume acetate in the dark to grow.
Combined with solar panels to generate the electricity to power the electrocatalysis, this hybrid organic-inorganic system could increase the conversion efficiency of sunlight into food, up to 18 times more efficient for some foods.
“With our approach, we sought to identify a new way of producing food that could break through the limits normally imposed by biological photosynthesis,” said corresponding author Robert Jinkerson, a UC Riverside assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering.
In order to integrate all the components of the system together, the output of the electrolyser was optimised to support the growth of food-producing organisms. Electrolysers are devices that use electricity to convert raw materials like carbon dioxide into useful molecules and products. The amount of acetate produced was increased while the amount of salt used was decreased, resulting in the highest levels of acetate ever produced in an electrolyser to date.
“Using a state-of-the-art two-step tandem CO2 electrolysis setup developed in our laboratory, we were able to achieve a high selectivity towards acetate that cannot be accessed through conventional CO2 electrolysis routes,” said corresponding author Feng Jiao at the University of Delaware.
Experiments showed that a wide range of food-producing organisms can be grown in the dark…