ARTIFICIAL PHOTOSYNTHESIS: Marriage of Nature and Electronics

As we learned in school, photosynthesis is the process by which plants extract energy from sunlight to produce carbohydrates and ultimately proteins and fats from carbon dioxide and water, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere as a by-product. The evolution of photosynthesis in its current form made animal life possible by producing the oxygen we breathe and the carbon-based foods we eat. Photosynthesis does this on a massive scale, converting about 1,000bn metric tons of Carbon dioxide into organic matter each year, yielding about 700bn metric tons of oxygen [1]. 2.0 WHAT IS PHOTOSYNTHESIS? Photosynthesis is the process of converting light energy to chemical energy and storing it in the bonds of sugar. This process occurs in plants and some algae. Plants need only light energy, CO2, and H2O to make sugar. The process of photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts, specifically using chlorophyll, the green pigment involved in photosynthesis. Chlorophyll looks green because it absorbs red and blue light, making these colors unavailable to be seen by our eyes.

ABSTARCT Photosynthesis is the process by which plant survives and acts as a greatest sink for carbon dioxide. This paper shows that how a photosynthesis reaction in plants takes place artificially with the help of electronic components. This paper starts with introducing the basic reactions that occurs in plant in the process of photosynthesis. Next it gives information about photovoltaic cell. This paper also deals four steps describing the process of Artificial photosynthesis (AFP). First is the chlorophyll in a leaf is replaced with a photovoltaic cell which release electrons when exited by solar energy. Second step is to split water molecule where as artificially it is done with biomimetric engineering by fabricating new core with new geometry for splitting of water molecule. The third step that bioenergy transfer that occurs because of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and sodium diphosphate (NADPH). The last process is to convert CO2 to other organic components. Then it goes to micro fabrication of AFP. 1.0 INTRODUCTION It is still unclear where most of our energy will come from in the longer-term future. Solar power cannot produce industrial quantities of electricity, while the tide is turning against wind turbines because they spoil the landscape and too many would be needed to replace conventional generators. Nuclear energy remains in the doldrums. Fossil fuels continue to threaten global warming.

Natural photosynthesis carries out the following overall reaction in the carbon fixation process: CO2 + H2O + [Light Energy] => O2 + Carbohydrate (This is the source of the O2 we breathe.) When a pigment absorbs light energy, the energy can either be dissipated as heat, emitted at a longer wavelength as fluorescence, or it can trigger a chemical reaction. Certain membranes and structures in photosynthetic organisms serve as the structural units of But a promising new contender is emerging: the photosynthesis because chlorophyll will only participate harnessing of photosynthesis, the mechanism by which in chemical reactions when the molecule is associated plants derive their energy. The idea is to create artificial with proteins embedded in a membrane. Photosynthesis is systems that exploit the basic chemistry of photosynthesis a two-stage process, and in organisms that have in order to produce hydrogen or other fuels both for chloroplasts, two different areas of these structures house engines and electricity. Hydrogen burns cleanly, yielding the individual processes. A light-dependent process just water and energy. There is also the additional benefit (often termed light reactions) takes place in the grana, that AFP could mop up any excess carbon dioxide left while a second light-independent process (dark reactions) over from our present era of profligate fossil fuel subsequently occurs in the stroma of chloroplasts. It is consumption.

believed that the dark reactions can take place in the absence of light as long as the energy carriers developed in the light reactions are present. The first stage of photosynthesis occurs when the energy from light is directly utilized to produce energy carrier molecules, such as ATP and NADPH. However, an important protein in that process is Rubisco. In this stage, water is split into its components, and oxygen is released as a by-product. The energized transportation vehicles are subsequently utilized in the second and most fundamental stage of the photosynthetic process: production of carbonto-carbon covalent bonds. The second stage does not require illumination (a dark process), and is responsible for providing the basic nutrition for the plant cell, as well as building materials for cell walls and other components. In the process, carbon dioxide is fixed along with hydrogen to form carbohydrates, a family of biochemical’s that contain equal numbers of carbon atoms and water molecules. Overall, the photosynthetic process does not allow living organisms to directly utilize light energy, but instead involves energy capture in the first stage followed by a second stage of complex biochemical reactions that converts the energy into chemical bonds. 3.0 WHAT IS AFP?

chromophores that absorb light of progressively longer wavelength (lower energy) at each successive level. A large number of chromophores at each energy level increase the probability of light absorption and with proper placement of the chromophores, the excitation energy, where it is collected at a single spot, the reaction centre. Electron transfer to an electron acceptor (A) creates an initial charge separation. Subsequent transfer of an electron from an electron donor (D) to the reaction centre creates the final charge-separated state. The electron and corresponding "hole" formed by the loss of an electron may then be used for chemical reactions, be it the production of ATP and O2 in natural systems, or H2 and O2 in artificial systems. The benefits of both natural and artificial systems are clear: sunlight is converted into useful forms of energy [2]. Chemical reactions need energy in the form of electrons moving at high speeds to power them, in other words an electrical potential or voltage. Plants are in effect solar cells converting light into electrical energy. But for this to be sustainable, plants need a constant source of electrons, and this has to be an element or compound already present in the plant. It takes about 2.5 volts to break a single water molecule down into oxygen along with negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons. It is the extraction and separation of these oppositely charged electrons and protons from water molecules that provide the electric power. In plants, chlorophylls evolved to harvest light, and a complex labyrinth of proteins to conduct the photons to a suitable centre where this crucial water-splitting takes place. In plants, oxygen is the only by-product of this process, but researchers realized some years ago that the reaction could be tweaked to produce hydrogen as well. Still, tweaking photosynthesis to produce hydrogen rather than electrical energy is the easy bit. Thus the requirement of potential energy as well as negative and positive electrons we need a device that fulfills these requirements which are satisfied through photo voltaic cell. Organic cells are much preferred as they are light in weight and thin in structure helping to make nano pieces.

4.0 PHOTOVOLTAIC CELL A photovoltaic cell uses semiconductor material to Figure 1 Schematic representation of a light-harvesting transform light into electrical energy. Photons from light complex and reaction centre hitting the material excite electrons, releasing them from their atoms into the material. Once electrons are excited, Figure 1 gives an overview of the process of AFP. Energy they are able to move freely within the material. The in the form of light is collected by a series of semi-conductor then serves to force the electrons in the

desired directions. By creating a junction of a p and n type semiconductor, an electrical potential is created. The electrons move from the n-type to the p-type. Meanwhile, the positively charged atoms move from the p-type to the n-type. As a result, the n-type material gains a positive charge and the p-type gains a negative charge. When an electrical circuit connects the p-type and n-type ends, difference in electrical potential is created which results in current. Figure 2 shows the operation of photovoltaic cell.

membrane that captures the light and then passes the photons on to the next step. At the present, the silicon technology produces up to 33% efficiency in converting the sun into electricity [4]. This process basically uses micro solar panels. Even though they have only been able to reach as high as 8% with organic photovoltaics its potential efficiency is better than what can be done with silicon technology. Indeed it is more efficient for light absorption to have these thin layers of organic photovoltaics, what better way to paint them on than with a digital fabrication technique such as a nano form of continuous deposition. The digital data would provide the accuracy needed for a uniform thickness while fabbing the appropriate mixture of materials to mimic chlorophyll. This process of course would not become available until digital fabrication was able to perform on the nanoscale. 5.2 Second Step

The second process needed to be mimicked is modifying the process by which the plant uses the photon to split the water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen. Up until recently, attempts at replicating this process in the This type of cell can be manufactured in many different laboratory had failed because it has to be extremely ways. A monocrystalline semi conductor is much like the balanced in order to get the geometry just right. In an original plant there is a “complex labyrinth of proteins to ideal type described above. It has a pure p type crystal placed on a pure n type semiconductor crystal. This type conduct the photons to a suitable centre where this crucial of cell is the most efficient in terms of turning energy into water-splitting takes place [5]. A recent breakthrough electricity. But, it is expensive to manufacture because it discovered the precise location and arrangement of molecules that made this water molecule location of just is costly to produce large crystals of semiconductor material. A far more cost effective material to produce is a few splitting possible. It is identified the precise critical molecules of manganese, oxygen and calcium within the polycrystalline cells. These consist of small grains of core of the plant’s photosynthesis engine where the crystals randomly oriented to each other. Because the smaller crystals, much easier to manufacture, are simply water-splitting is performed. placed together it is much cheaper. However, energy is lost as electrons must maneuver between the different Hence to perform this artificially there is a need to crystals. This form of cells results in a lower efficiency. fabricate the whole environment on a chip which can be However, because it is the most economically efficient, it done through nanotechnology. Fabricating the films and paths for the photons to pass through and follow is a is used today. [3] crucial step before it reaches the core, but being able to fabricate perfect geometry of the core would be 5.0 PROCESS TO DO AFP invaluable which is known as “biomimetric” [6]. Nano digital fabrication would be a major break through on this 5.1 First step level as can be seen by the advancement in the In nature, photosynthesis is the process by which plants implementation of AF that would takes place. take light, water, and carbon dioxide, and transform them into energy and food. There are four main steps needed to 5.3 Third Step be mimicked in order for AFP to work. First, a way to harvest the solar energy, or light from the sun, must be The third step that needs to be mimicked is the “biofound. Currently, there seems to be two major rivaling energy” transfer that occurs because of ATP and processes: silicon technology versus organic NADPH, which has had slow progress. However, an photovoltaics. The latter refers to a process that would important protein in that process is Rubisco, which imitate the natural process by using material analogous to actually waterproofs the reaction site which is selective chlorophyll. Basically, this material would be a thing for carbon dioxide. If that part of the protein which is

there solely to waterproof the site could be artificially fabricated allowing the rest of the protein to be downsized in order to speed up the process, it would be a major breakthrough. So far, no process is accurate or efficient enough to accomplish this. Could digital fabrication of this area be the answer? It would have to occur for each reaction of carbon dioxide. This would not be something that would be able to be fabricated into an object or circuit as mentioned before, but would rather have to be done constantly under a nanofabber. This does not mean that this process is any less important as stated before the results would be astounding. The process would flow in perhaps greenhouse labs where solar panels would collect the sun light, transfer the protons, split the water molecule, and when the time came for the Rubisco protein to surround the carbon dioxide a special organic membrane could be fabbed around the reaction site as a genetically altered Rubisco catalyzed the process now more efficiently. 5.4 Fourth step Finally, the last process is converting the carbon dioxide into other products. This area has a long way to go, but when accomplished will be able to produce proteins for food, alcohols for fuel, and chemical intermediates. The applications of AFP are vast and carry life changing benefits, but it will take digital fabrication to bring them about. 6.0 FABBING AFP INTO MICROCIRCUITS So for this process of AFP, digital fabrication could build the “antenna” structure that captures the light (similar to a solar panel), and already coat it with the artificial material that would replace the chlorophyll. As stated before these organic photovoltaics mimicking chlorophyll would need to be “painted” on in thin layers onto these antennas. An example of how digital fabrication would perform this can be seen from its example of building a couch. Original manufacturing process of a couch would flow from building the frame, then attaching cushy material, and then covering that material with choice fabric. However, digital manufacturing of a couch would not flow the same. It would not build it part by part, but rather it would start from the ground and work its way up simply changing the material it was using to build as it went along. For example, it might start with wood for the frame, then when it reached what would be the cushion material it would simply change the material or material property that it was building with one that had squishable yet resilient properties.

Figure3 : fabbing of microcircuit. Likewise when it came to what would be the fabric to cover the chair cushion it would switch to a material that could enclose and protect the previous material, with properties that were tough and resistant, yet comfortable. Now, analogous to this process would be many processes on the nano and micro level such as the antenna and the organic photovoltaic. The nano digital fabricator might start out with a base material for the antenna and then switch to the organic photovoltaic material that would in essence be like being painted on to any surface needed. [7] 7.0 APPLICATIONS The main aim behind developing this process of AFP is that where the photosynthesis is process of preparing food with CO2, sunlight and water thus AFP is a mimic to natural one and prepares food from sunlight, water and CO2 available in atmosphere thus reducing the content of CO2 in atmosphere. Thus becoming as an artificial sinks and saves from Green house effect. Byproducts of the process could be a valuable alternative fuel, methane, or even food in the form of starches and sugars. If a digitally manufactured product that could perform photosynthesis existed, it would not only help to reduce the Greenhouse effect, but would also reduce pollution as well as create alternative food and fuel sources. In the process of AFP, digital manufacturing would not only have to fab the artificial materials necessary for the process, but also in essence program them to perform this process by working together. For example, the fabber would need to manufacture the nanotube [8] that sucks in the air, the nano solar panel that takes in the light, then the chemical dispenser that is added to the mix for a chemical reaction of CO2 and O2 and energy or food, and an output tube, and then set it all up before finally hitting the

run button. Furthermore, microcircuits will need to be fabed on all the nano photosynthesis plants in order to drive the photosynthesis process by instruction the process of artificial. Using nanotechnology to create natural processes such as photosynthesis is of critical significance to the future of our world. Since photosynthesis is the basis of our food and energy supply; a supply which is running increasingly short in our “space-age” world, finding ways to artificially create this process using digital manufacturing should be of utmost importance. This, together with novel uses of photosynthetic principles for other purposes, make it likely that photosynthesis and its applications will help to shape an increasingly broad area of exciting discoveries and innovative ideas. But the harnessing of photosynthesis, the mechanism by which plants derive their energy, shows much potential in solving this energy problem. By creating artificial systems that exploit the basic chemistry of photosynthesis, additional processes will thus be made in order to produce hydrogen or other fuels both for engines and electricity. Since hydrogen burns cleanly, it yields only water and energy. AFP could also “mop up” any excess carbon dioxide left over from our present era of “profligate fossil fuel consumption. If the Rubisco molecule could be made smaller, more efficient, and faster the benefits would be incredible,“…if we can improve the efficiency of Rubisco from 1.5% to 1.6% and introduce this into crops just the benefits to mankind in terms of higher production, better turnover rate in agriculture, would be absolutely mind-boggling. A major advancement in digital manufacturing technology is the actual fabrication of food one day [9]. 8.0 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS Use [1] and [4] for calibrations of photosynthesis by a plant and of silicon. Use [2] for articles of AFP. Then [3] gives complete details of photovoltaic cell. Refer [5] for artificial ways of splitting water molecule. [6] Gives details about biomimetric process. Reference [7] is there to show the fabbing techniques. Go to [8] for details of nanotubes. Last but not least refer [9] for food fabrication. Could micro or nano digital fabrication be the break through process by which these artificial photosynthesis reaction centers will finally be able to be implemented into electronic circuits? Currently, the process of

artificial photosynthesis can only be performed in the laboratory, but it is hypothesized that digital fabrication will be the process that moves it from the laboratory to the rest of the world, and then the sky is the limit. Nano digital fabrication might not solve the problem on how to make the ATP and NADPH storage molecules, or how to artificially convert carbon dioxide to other carbon products (both processes yet to be successfully accomplished), but when those problems are solved, digital fabrication will be the key to implementing them into electronic circuits, devices, and other process that will greatly improve the quality of life for everyone. 9.0 REFERENCES [1] Prospect Magazine by Philip Hunter or [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

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