Interdisciplinary cooperation at the Israeli Technion led to a breakthrough in the field of bioenergy. The Technion has filed a patent and professionals have praised in speaking of “something new under the sun” and that this achievement is a first step towards creating a true green power “energy among the greenest green”. The paper was published in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” – the prestigious Journal of the American National Academy of Sciences.
The Dean of the Faculty of Biology, Gadi Schuster and Professor Noam Adir, Faculty of Chemistry and PhD students Shirley Larom and Faris Salama recorded a significant success on the road to green power. They managed to manipulate the process of photosynthesis (the process by which plants absorb solar energy and convert it into chemical energy) so that it becomes possible to produce electricity from plants. Scientists have been studying a key protein in the process of moving electrons during photosynthesis. In nature, protein extract electrons from water and move across a membrane in bacteria and plants. Membranes prevent the flow of electricity from escaping into biological subsidiary processes. The researchers changed an amino acid -one of hundreds found in the protein- to a positive and negative have managed to change the direction of electron emission to allow the operation of the energy produced in the process for future use.
The protein also exports created electrons at a frequency high enough to produce an amount of usable energy and directs the flow in a configuration that allows efficient absorption of this energy. This result was obtained without artificial change affecting the protein. This allows the organism to grow entirely natural and can thus produce large amounts of protein at a relatively low cost and without interfering with industrial processes. At the second stage, scientists from the Technion sought a protein transporting electrons absorb the emitted electrons and transfer them to a battery supply. They found a small protein cytochrome C produced by the heart of horse is the most consistent and best fulfills the desired function.
In the future, the Technion researchers hope to create a mechanism to convert biochemical energy into electricity and hydrogen used daily in their form. “This will not replace the power plants but can provide significant amounts of clean electricity, particularly in places with no electricity networks. We hope that leaves, such as tobacco leaves, can provide electricity for a certain number of hours equivalent to that of a photoelectric plate of one square meter”, Adir and Schuster state.