Ask Biology

Why is recreating photosynthesis on a petri dish so hard?

If we were to place bacteriorhodopsin and ATP synthase in an acidified solution (for H+ ions) filled with phospholipids, ADP and inorganic phosphate, hopefully the bacteriorhodopsin and ATP synthase will be embedded in the same micelle. Then when exposed to sunlight, the bacteriorhodopsin will start to operate, creating an electrochemical gradient which will power the ATP synthase, synthesising ATP. Now, all seems well recreating the chloroplast.

What if we could add in the Kelvin cycle and other photosystems to create a fully functional ‘chloroplast’? It seems biotech researchers have been trying this since the 1960s, however, why have scientists not been able to create a fully functioning photosynthetic organ now? Wouldn’t this replace the need of sugar cane farms and provide us with the most efficient means of harvesting sugar (thus lot’s of hype, investment, attention, armies of scientists working on this)?

My question is, why is it so hard? What are the technological barriers against such an invention? Even if such a small working model were to exist, why can’t it be scaled up?

Thanks in advance.

Remark: I am not looking for a synthetic system that operates by inorganic means but a system that consists of enzymes and membranous structures, very much like that in plants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *