Biohybrid Photosynthetic Droplets

Through the process of photosynthesis–using only sunlight, air, and water–plants create their own food source and provide the foundation for life on Earth. If scientists had the ability to harness and adapt the photosynthetic process, they could enable large scale biological systems that suck CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into oxygen or  create truly self-sustaining life forms through robotics. Yet, in 2020, researchers in France and Germany developed chloroplast-mimicking nanobiotic microfluidics and encapsulated them in photosynthetic thylakoid membranes to produce programmable cell-sized photosynthetic droplets. Chloroplast in plants converts solar energy  into chemical energy, driving the CO2 to oxygen conversion process. Thus, the engineered droplets can be energized by light to power enzymes and enzyme reactions; the biochemical process is optimized in real-time via computer software. Through these biohybrid photosynthetic droplets, the researchers successfully created artificial carbon conversion and replicated all the essential characteristics of photosynthesis. In fact, they actually enhanced the process by omitting photorespiration, a waste product of photosynthesis by plants, and are able to re-program and test for new natural or synthetic metabolic processes before transplanting them into plants. While technology like this is still in development and will not be available anytime soon, if projected on a large scale in the future, synthetic or biohybrid plants could help us combat carbon emissions and global warming with unprecedented speed.

Miller, T.E., Beneyton, T., Schwander, T., Diehl, C., Girault, M., McLean, R., Chotel, T., Claus, P., Cortina, N.S., Baret, J.C. and Erb, T.J., 2020. “Light-powered CO2 fixation in a chloroplast mimic with natural and synthetic parts“.

Gent, E. (2020, May 8). “Hacking Plant Life: Artificial Photosynthesis Takes a Leap Forward“.


Artificial Life, Climate Change, Ecological Monitoring, Internet of Things, Pollution