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Artificial Leaf Captures Sunlight to Manufacture Medicines

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Highlights
  • Plant leaves capture sunlight for preparing food
  • Artificial leaf copies nature to capture sunlight and acts as a mini-factory for preparing drugs
  • Luminescent Solar Concentrators (LSCs) help to manufacture drugs anywhere in the world

Artificial Leaf Captures Sunlight to Manufacture Medicines

Using a mini-factory where sunlight can be captured will be able to create drugs and chemical products. The plant leaves can collect sunlight to prepare its food, in the same way a research team from Eindhoven University of Technology have used this concept for developing drugs by using sunlight.

The research study is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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Available sunlight may generate little energy for starting the reactions. Using sunlight to make drugs is a long time dream for chemical engineers.

The antenna molecules in the plant leaf collect sunlight and stores it in the reaction centers of the leaf where solar energy is present for chemical reactions.
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The research team was able to find relatively new materials called Luminescent solar concentrators (LSC) that will be able to capture sunlight. The presence of specific light-sensitive molecules may help to capture a large amount of light and convert them into a specific color which can be conducted to the edges through light conductivity. To boost the energy, luminescent solar concentrators are often used in combination with solar cells.

Dr. Timothy Noel and his team incorporated thin channels in a silicon rubber luminescent solar concentrators through which liquid can be pumped. This was able to bring sunlight in contact with liquid molecules in high intensity to trigger chemical reactions.

The study findings surpassed the expectations. Noel, said, "Even an experiment on a cloudy day demonstrated that the chemical production was 40 percent higher than in a similar experiment without LSC material. "

"We still see plenty of possibilities for improvement. We now have a powerful tool at our disposal that enables the sustainable, sunlight-based production of valuable chemical products like drugs or crop protection agents."

Chemical reactions in the preparation of drugs usually need toxic chemicals and energy from fossil fuels. Visible light can be used for allowing the reactions to be sustainable and cheap. However, "Using a reactor like this means you can make drugs anywhere, in principle, whether malaria drugs in the jungle or paracetamol on Mars. All you need is sunlight and this mini-factory."

Luminescent Solar Concentrators (LSC)
  • It is a device used for concentrating sunlight to produce energy.
  • It is an emerging technology that reduces the cost of solar energy.
  • Luminescent Solar Concentrators work by collecting the radiation and converting them to luminescence and directing the energy to the small output target.
References
  1. T. Noel et.al. 'A leaf-inspired luminescent solar concentrator for energy efficient continuous-flow photochemistry', Angewandte Chemie ; (2016) DOI: 10.1002/anie.201611101
  2. Luminescent solar concentrators utilizing stimulated emission - (https://www.osapublishing.org/oe/fulltext.cfm?uri=oe-24-6-A497&id=336280)


Source: Medindia

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