Many of the problems that engineers have to face have long been solved by nature. For example - ordinary leaves. They can be compared to intelligent living machines. They “harvest” sunlight and use chlorophyll molecules for a chemical reaction in photosynthesis that converts CO2 and water into glucose. Plants use glucose and in the process generate oxygen as a by-product.
A group of researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands) is currently developing an artificial leaf that can be used to make medicines.
These synthetic leaves are made of translucent materials that allow sunlight to pass through and direct it to tiny channels that permeate the material like blood vessels. A special liquid flows through them.
The idea is that solar energy triggers a chemical reaction in this liquid, converting it into a useful substance, such as medicine or fuel.
The first version of the sheet was made of silicone rubber, and the new one was made of lighter and more refractive plexiglass.
The sheet has already passed the first tests. With its help, scientists were able to make two drugs - antimalarial artimensinin and ascaridol, which is used against some parasitic worms.
Given the small size of the leaf and its scalability, the researchers plan to use it to manufacture drugs and other substances exactly where they are needed. For example, in the tropics it will be mainly antimalarial drugs, and on board interplanetary spacecraft - vital drugs for lunar and Martian missions.