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Bionic Leaf: Scientists Create Fertilizer From Natural Sources [VIDEO]

Update Date: Apr 05, 2017 07:13 AM EDT

Scientists have created the bionic leaf which forms fertilizer from natural sources like sunlight, water and air in their bid to look for ways to help enhance agricultural production.

The idea originates from the groundbreaking work of Dr. Daniel Nocera, which is an artificial leaf that can simulate photosynthesis but consumes hydrogen exclusively. The hydrogen-hungry property was engineered with the use of the bacteria Ralstonia eutropha. The system used up a lot of carbon dioxide from the air to make liquid fuel, the Phys.org reported.

Dr. Nocera then added the Xanthobacter species which allowed the bionic leaf to further use carbon dioxide and hydrogen into bioplastics that can be stored by the bacteria as its own fuel. The bioplastics planted in soil started nitrogen fixation and produced ammonia, the Digital Trends reported.

The science of the study was put to test when it was used to plant radishes for five cycles. The radishes that used the fertilizer from natural sources weighed 150 percent more than the ones in the control group.

Creating a fertilizer from natural sources is very important in addressing world hunger. The first time the synthetic fertilizers were used, agricultural production doubled but came at the expense of the environment. What the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization wants to happen is to be able to provide food for the growing world population by increasing crop yields without damaging the environment with harmful chemicals or clearing of more land for farming.

What Dr. Nocera hopes to achieve next is to optimize the system. This is especially helpful in areas that have limited agricultural infrastructure and fertilizer production like in many areas in Africa and Asia.

The study has not been published yet but will be presented at this year's National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society early this week.

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