Wouldn't it be incredible to be able to get or write a prescription anywhere the sun shines, regardless if it's here on Earth or on other planet? A group of Dutch researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology has created an artificial leaf device that could make this happen!
The researchers were inspired by how plants can make their own food through photosynthesis. They used materials that are similar to what plants use to catch and store energy from the sun.
These materials are called luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs), which have extraordinary light-delicate particles that can catch tremendous amounts of light.
"Using a reactor like this means you can make drugs anywhere, in principle, whether malaria drugs in the jungle or paracetamol on Mars," says Timothy Noël, lead researcher on the study. "All you need is sunlight and this mini-factory."
The group developed a gadget that resembles a leaf. They included slim, microchannels copying the veins in a silicon elastic LSC. By pumping fluids into those channels, their particles can get into contact with the daylight consumed by the LSC.
There was so much energy that it could trigger chemical responses. Researchers say, the device with LSC produced 40% more chemicals than those without LSC
"Even an experiment on a cloudy day demonstrated that the chemical production was 40 percent higher than in a similar experiment without LSC material," says Noël. "We still see plenty of possibilities for improvement. We now have a powerful tool at our disposal that enables the sustainable, sunlight-based production of valuable chemical products like drugs or crop protection agents."