BY: ANGELICA LITSIOU
Julian Melchiorri, a Royal College of Art graduate working with Dezeen and MINI Frontiers, has designed a synthetic biological leaf that would absorb water and carbon dioxide and produce oxygen the way a plant does.
“Plants don’t grow in zero gravity. NASA is researching different methods of producing oxygen for long-distance space journeys. This material could enable us to live in space and explore further than we can now.”
Melchiorri’s Silk Leaf Project was developed through his Design Engineering course in collaboration with the Tufts University silk lab. The leaves consist of chloroplasts suspended in a cast made out of silk proteins.
He extracted the components directly from the fibres of silk. Melchiorri says, “This material has a stabilizing quality for molecules.” He extracted chloroplasts from plant cells and placed them within his silk protein matrix. The aftermath is a design for a photosynthetic material that would live and breathe like a natural leaf.
“It is very light, low energy consuming and it’s completely biological.” Melchiorri’s plan was to utilize the efficiency of nature and natural processes in a man-made environment. He created small lamps through this design, serving both as a light fixture and tool for creating oxygen in his house.
Although the synthetic leaf has not been tested, the potential for the success of his design is an exhilarating prospect. Melchiorri hopes that it can be used for outdoor spaces and future ventilation systems. “You can absorb air from the outside, pass it through these biological filters and then carry oxygenated air inside.”
If Melchiorri’s design proves to be functional and reliable, this material could be integrated into the environment to create positive change. Melchiorri’s design merges creativity and eco-awareness and has the potential to improve everyday life and push for the discovery of new frontiers.