Julian Melchiorri, a student of the Royal College of Art of London is making quite of a buzz outside of Scientists frontiers with his Silk Leaf. A revolutionary material capable of producing O2 from CO2 designed on biomimicry principle. Info or Intox?  We’ll let you make your own mind up on the question!

For a few years now, the Biotechnology science is becoming attractive, even to artists! Several artworks are already produced thanks to DNA modifications or the utilization of microorganisms. In this field, we can name Eduardo Kac for his controversial, but famous, rabbit Alba, the first fluorescent rabbit and also Patrice Palacio, who created original pieces inspired by a series of histological images for the 10th Birthday of the company Histalim.


Alba the GFP Rabbit / Picture : Chrystelle Fontaine – Patrice Palacio Artwork

But some artists make more of an impact than others. A student of the Royal College of Art of London, Julian Melchiorri, in collaboration with the prestigious American Tufts University is creating a huge buzz! The idea of this artist is quite simple; he created a new material capable of producing O2 from CO2!  This new material was build according to biomimicry principles. Scientists created a matrix of protein extracted from silk, in which chloroplasts, the organelle that allows plants and algae to perform photosynthesis are integrated. This material, the Silk Leaf, then works like your every day photosynthesis. Providing it with light and water, the Silk leaf will convert CO2 into O2.

Here the artist explains the technology and the concept of the Silk Leaf:

As shown in the video, Julian has already imagined many uses for the man-made leaf. According to his statements it could be used for fixing houses, buildings or even for space missions. But today only lamp pictures are available.

julian melchiorri

Julien Melchiorri Fixtures

Besides these great selling points, the scientific article is not published yet and a lot of questions remain open… The material is composed of chloroplasts and the O2 is produced through photosynthesis. But during photosynthesis, sugars are normally produced and stored in the vacuole. However, in this case, there is no vacuole… so how long will chloroplasts survive?  Moreover we don’t have any clue of the O2 production rate and the amount of plants needed to actually create the Silk Leaf. All these points lead to one final question: Are we really in front of a revolutionizing tool, or only a well-marketed artwork?  Either way, the Silk Leaf seems to be light years away from convincing Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, to take the new material into out of the space.

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  • Other histological images from Patrice Palacio http://www.histalim.com/accueil/gallery/bioart/

  • Absolutely wonderful innovation! I can’t wait to hear more about this. I can think of a lot of applications of technology like this. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • jerry Burke

    I’m only reading the abstract of this, by if I remember photosynthesis correctly, carbon dioxide is reduced into sugar while water gets hydrolyzed (oxidized) into oxygen. What happens to all the carbon?

    • Hi Jerry, you have a point. In fact, we also asked ourselves this question, as the author pointed out in the article 😉