Imperial College London to power batteries through photosynthesis

By Sophie Chapman
A team of researchers at Imperial College London, UK, have fused biological and artificial cells to power batteries through photosynthesis. The researc...

A team of researchers at Imperial College London, UK, have fused biological and artificial cells to power batteries through photosynthesis.

The researchers have encapsulated the living cells inside non-living ones in order to utilise the natural ability of the cells whilst protecting them from environmental conditions.

The non-living cells contain enzymes that work with the biological ones to create chemicals.

“Biological cells can perform extremely complex functions, but can be difficult to control when trying to harness one aspect,” commented Prof Oscar Ces, Lead researcher.

“Artificial cells can be programmed more easily but we cannot yet build in much complexity.”

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“Our new system bridges the gap between these two approaches by fusing whole biological cells with artificial ones, so that the machinery of both works in concert to produce what we need.

“This is a paradigm shift in thinking about the way we design artificial cells, which will help accelerate research on applications in healthcare and beyond.”

When the cells were tested with copper in a solution, what would usually be toxic to living cells, the detection of fluorescent chemicals suggested that the biological cells were still alive.

“The system we designed is controllable and customisable,” said Dr Yuval Elani, the first author of the study.

“You can create different sizes of artificial cells in a reproducible manner, and there is the potential to add in all kinds of cell machinery, such as chloroplasts for performing photosynthesis or engineered microbes that act as sensors.”

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