Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Frogs, Foam and Fuel: UC Researchers Convert Solar Energy to Sugars

Illustration by Megan Gundrum, fifth-year DAAP student
Illustration by Megan Gundrum, fifth-year DAAP student

Abstract:
Engineers from the University of Cincinnati devise a foam that captures energy and removes excess carbon dioxide from the air — thanks to semi-tropical frogs.

By: Wendy Beckman

Frogs, Foam and Fuel: UC Researchers Convert Solar Energy to Sugars

Cincinnati, OH | Posted on March 16th, 2010

For decades, farmers have been trying to find ways to get more energy out of the sun.

In natural photosynthesis, plants take in solar energy and carbon dioxide and then convert it to oxygen and sugars. The oxygen is released to the air and the sugars are dispersed throughout the plant — like that sweet corn we look for in the summer. Unfortunately, the allocation of light energy into products we use is not as efficient as we would like. Now engineering researchers at the University of Cincinnati are doing something about that.

The researchers are finding ways to take energy from the sun and carbon from the air to create new forms of biofuels, thanks to a semi-tropical frog species. Their results have just been published online in "Artificial Photosynthesis in Ranaspumin-2 Based Foam" (March 5, 2010) in the journal Nano Letters. (It will be a cover story for the print edition in the fall.)

Research Assistant Professor David Wendell, student Jacob Todd and College of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Carlo Montemagno co-authored the paper, based on research in Montemagno's lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Their work focused on making a new artificial photosynthetic material which uses plant, bacterial, frog and fungal enzymes, trapped within a foam housing, to produce sugars from sunlight and carbon dioxide.

Foam was chosen because it can effectively concentrate the reactants but allow very good light and air penetration. The design was based on the foam nests of a semi-tropical frog called the Tungara frog, which creates very long-lived foams for its developing tadpoles.

"The advantage for our system compared to plants and algae is that all of the captured solar energy is converted to sugars, whereas these organisms must divert a great deal of energy to other functions to maintain life and reproduce," says Wendell. "Our foam also uses no soil, so food production would not be interrupted, and it can be used in highly enriched carbon dioxide environments, like the exhaust from coal-burning power plants, unlike many natural photosynthetic systems."

He adds, "In natural plant systems, too much carbon dioxide shuts down photosynthesis, but ours does not have this limitation due to the bacterial-based photo-capture strategy."

There are many benefits to being able to create a plant-like foam.

"You can convert the sugars into many different things, including ethanol and other biofuels," Wendell explains. "And it removes carbon dioxide from the air, but maintains current arable land for food production."

"This new technology establishes an economical way of harnessing the physiology of living systems by creating a new generation of functional materials that intrinsically incorporates life processes into its structure," says Dean Montemagno. "Specifically in this work it presents a new pathway of harvesting solar energy to produce either oil or food with efficiencies that exceed other biosolar production methodologies. More broadly it establishes a mechanism for incorporating the functionality found in living systems into systems that we engineer and build."

The next step for the team will be to try to make the technology feasible for large-scale applications like carbon capture at coal-burning power plants.

"This involves developing a strategy to extract both the lipid shell of the algae (used for biodiesel) and the cytoplasmic contents (the guts), and reusing these proteins in the foam," says Wendell. "We are also looking into other short carbon molecules we can make by altering the enzyme cocktail in the foam."

Montemagno adds, "It is a significant step in delivering the promise of nanotechnology."

####

About University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati offers students a balance of educational excellence and real-world experience.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Wendy Beckman
(513) 556-1826

Copyright © University of Cincinnati

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

University of Manchester selects Anasys AFM-IR for coatings and corrosion research July 30th, 2014

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics July 30th, 2014

Analytical solutions from Malvern Instruments support University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers in understanding environmental effects of nanomaterials July 30th, 2014

FEI Unveils New Solutions for Faster Time-to-Analysis in Metals Research July 30th, 2014

Possible Futures

IBM Announces $3 Billion Research Initiative to Tackle Chip Grand Challenges for Cloud and Big Data Systems: Scientists and engineers to push limits of silicon technology to 7 nanometers and below and create post-silicon future July 10th, 2014

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

Local girl does good March 22nd, 2014

Surface Characteristics Influence Cellular Growth on Semiconductor Material March 12th, 2014

Academic/Education

University of Manchester selects Anasys AFM-IR for coatings and corrosion research July 30th, 2014

Haydale Announces Collaboration Agreement with Swansea University’s Welsh Centre for Printing and Coatings (WCPC) July 12th, 2014

STFC takes delivery of the 100th Hitachi Tabletop SEM in the UK July 3rd, 2014

Innovation Management and the Emergence of the Nanobiotechnology Industry July 1st, 2014

Announcements

University of Manchester selects Anasys AFM-IR for coatings and corrosion research July 30th, 2014

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics July 30th, 2014

Analytical solutions from Malvern Instruments support University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers in understanding environmental effects of nanomaterials July 30th, 2014

FEI Unveils New Solutions for Faster Time-to-Analysis in Metals Research July 30th, 2014

Environment

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics July 30th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Waste Cotton Fibers to Produce Cellulose Nanoparticles July 29th, 2014

Production of Toxic Gas Sensor Based on Nanorods July 28th, 2014

Researchers Use Various Zinc Oxide Nanostructures to Boost Efficiency of Water Purification Process July 13th, 2014

Energy

From Narrow to Broad July 30th, 2014

Oregon chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution: Solution-based inorganic process could drive more efficient electronics and solar devices July 21st, 2014

Steam from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam July 21st, 2014

3-D nanostructure could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage: Rice U. researchers predict functional advantages of 3-D boron nitride July 15th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE