Researchers from Harvard have recently unveiled a new method in bioengineering a bacteria-based fertilizer that has shown tremendous increases in the biomass of selected crops.
The Nocera Lab gained recognition in the past in the development of the artificial leaf, which is capable of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen through the use of different catalysts. The researchers have now used this technology to develop the bionic leaf: the artificial leaf used in concert with a particular microorganism capable of using the hydrogen gas evolved from the artificial leaf and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce a stored biofuel in the bacteria. When this Xanthobacter bacteria is placed in the soil, it is capable of undergoing nitrogen fixation with the stored biofuel and nitrogen in the air to produce natural ammonia to fertilize the crops. As seen in the image above, the soil with the nitrogen-fixing bacteria (right) had a considerable increase in the biomass of the planted crop.
For more information about the study, check out the press release on the American Chemical Society’s website.
In thinking out the transition to the new standards, this could be an interesting example of an investigative phenomenon or just a great article to bring into the classroom on how scientists are currently trying to solve either the energy crisis or the food demand of our ever-increasing human population.