we already know how photosynthesis is done ; so why cant we creat “artificial plants” that take CO2 and gives O2 and energy in exchange?


we already know how photosynthesis is done ; so why cant we creat “artificial plants” that take CO2 and gives O2 and energy in exchange?

In: Biology

>we already know how photosynthesis is done ; so why cant we creat “artificial plants” that take CO2 and gives O2 and energy in exchange?

Understanding how something works and having the ability to replicate it are not the same thing.

Furthermore there isn’t really an incentive – for all purposes that require plants on a large scale (really only one: biomass creation) you just use, well, *plants*.

You have energy on the wrong side there. It takes CO2 and energy and gives O2 in exchange.

Also organic photosynthesis is incredibly complicated and uses a ton of membranes, enzymes and proteins that would be very hard to synthesize on even a tiny scale never mind a useful one.

Your question is like asking “we know how cellular respiration works so why can’t we create “artificial animals”?” Like, just grow entire frogs and monkeys in a test tube, or 3D print them?

If that seems obviously absurd for our current tech, be aware that plants are just as complicated as animals in terms of cell machinery.

If your question is just about using sunlight to convert CO2 to O2 (not actually artificial entire plants), then [yes that absolutely is a thing that exists and is currently a huge area of upcoming research.](https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-04949-2_5)

Expense. Constructing an ‘artificial plant’ as you described would be very expensive, since all the necessary enzymes will have to be artificially synthesized and assembled. However, even is an ‘artificial plant’ is made, it would need be maintained, which adds to the running costs.

At this point, it would be much more cost effective to just plant an actual plant, which does all that is needed, in addition to providing for wildlife, maintaining biodiversity and reducing the (potentially global) temperature.

Artificial photosynthesis actually is a deeply studied field of research, where you use sunlight to drive a reaction that releases oxygen from various solutions. The problem is, the components needed in the reaction are inefficient, degrade/deplete quickly, or are expensive to make/maintain.


By artificially creating plantations or, in other words, afforestation. That’s probably the way forward.

If there’s a way to assess how many trees were cut, per capita, and if we replace at least that much, in about 15 to 30 years, we can hit equilibrium? Not sure if my approach is correct (accounting for the time a plant takes to grow into a full size tree).

If annual afforestation exceeds annual per capita consumption, we may actually reverse the trend? But then again, it would probably take a decade or two?

The only real purpose this could have is to take CO2 out of the air and keep it out of the carbon cycle for an undefined time. Other purposes, like turning solar energy into biomass for food or fuel are already covered by plants, GMO or not. So to store the CO2 with the artificial plants could be possible if there is a pretty much useless molecule to turn it into. There isnt really such a thing, certainly not made with photosynthesis, so it would be used for something, which may harm the environment in different ways.

Even if such a molecule could be made with artificial plants, the best way to store CO2 would still be to plant way more trees.

Well, we know how our stomachs work but we don’t give ourselves artificial stomachs, turns out there’s no need.

why don’t we just…… grow more plants?

First, we actually still don’t know exactly how every step of photosynthesis works. Second, the reactions in photosynthesis are catalyzed (made possible) by enzymes, which are highly specialized since they’ve been evolving for billions of years. Humans may be good at technology, but we cannot compete with billions of years of evolution to produce catalysts that perform as well as those that do photosynthesis. Photosynthetic organisms just do it better than we can. And third, we actually *are* working to improve photosynthesis and apply it in novel ways. There is new biotech which has made photosynthesis more efficient in some plants, and has allowed for part of the process to be ported over to industrial microbes so that they can use CO2 as a direct feedstock for chemical production.

We can create “artificial” photosynthesis using tanks of genetically engineered algae. But as a way to produce oxygen it’s pretty slow and energy inefficient. Much quicker and more energy efficient to use electrolysis of sea water. This is how submarines produce oxygen, for example.

An often overlooked fact is that trees don’t actually produce the vast majority of the oxygen we need to breathe. In fact we could chop down every tree on the planet, but oceanic algae would continue to produce enough oxygen to sustain us.

But if we want to reduce atomospheric CO2, we need the carbon to be taken up and *stored,* not just recycled. The best way to do that is, simply, more trees.

If we were to plant 1 – 1.2 trillion trees on the planet, that would capture enough carbon to return atmospheric CO2 to pre-industrial levels.

Why do we need artificial plants when we have regular plants?

I think a better question would be we know how to make hard things that aren’t wood…. why can’t we stop cutting down trees.

What about just taking care of nature?

What would the benefit be of this over actual plants?

Why don’t we just use…real plants? ELI5 for me plz

They’re working on it. But the way it happens in plants is that an entire organism revolves around the process and keeps up with the needs until it can’t anymore and dies. And a lot of that is done on a microscopic scale with a pretty small energy excess which the plant uses to grow. From an engineering standpoint it’s more valid to take lessons from plants then to try to reinvent them. They can teach us a lot about optimal use of light energy.

Because people can’t even spell the word create, much less create something like that. so sorry couldn’t resist. Honestly interested in the question though.

It’s about theoretical versus actual versus production. Take for instance batteries. Yes we have batteries with layers as thin as one micron. Yes we can make them actually. Can you mass produce it, and make it cheaper than the alternatives? Probably not. Tesla had same philosophy.. it’s easy to make a model car, not easy to mass produce them.

I’m interested in why the OP thinks we need artificial plants to this rather than just regular plants. What would artificial plants provide that regular plants would not?

Are there any instances where our technological mimicry of biological systems ends up being superior?

Can you imagine the tech it would take to create a seed that you could just toss out your front door into the dirt and a week later there would be a plant there sucking in C02, capturing that sunlight, and spitting out 02?