Your future smartphone could fix its broken screen by pulling coal out of the air

dofixtures of the pot – substances fed by the sun and using atmospheric carbon dioxide to grow and restore, as plants do – do not yet exist outside the lab. But scientists are getting closer to making them a commercial reality.

When made available, they will most likely initially benefit widely from "self-healing" overlays, such as in decorative cars, mobile phones and textiles. When their surfaces become cracked or scratched, it will be easy to fill the gaps with exposure to air and sunlight, without requiring additional action. Also, their transportation will be more costly and energy efficient, as they could first be shipped to manufacturers and manufacturers in a lightweight size. Once they reach their destination, they will be exposed to air and sunlight, where they will expand, solidify and cure.

Designing materials that not only avoid the use of fossil fuels but also feed atmospheric carbon dioxide, have obvious benefits for the environment and climate, according to the researchers.

"As humans, we can choose to build the world out of oil from the ground, creating plastics as fibers and leaves that we see around us or we can follow nature and use coal in the air," said Michael Strano, professor chemical engineering at MIT. "The first step is to imagine materials that grow and repaired as plants and trees." The next step is to reduce them in practice, and then, after improvement and optimization, we can begin to replace our disintegrated materials with these new , continuously updated versions. "

The beauty of the product "is that it needs nothing more than atmospheric carbon dioxide and ambient light, which are ubiquitous," added Strano. "These materials incorporate carbon mass in the air and self-repairing continuously and automatically without external stimuli." "Building with carbon dioxide and ambient light uses the energy we currently have." This sustainability is reduced to its most basic definition.

The Strano lab has recently created a material that reacts chemically with carbon dioxide from the air to develop, strengthen and even repair and – unlike other efforts in the field to simulate natural biological processes – it does not need to be inflowed from external, ultraviolet light, chemicals or mechanical stress, scientists said. The result was a gel-like synthetic polymer and uses the same biological ingredients to harness sunlight – the chloroplasts – which scientists made from spinach leaves. The polymer constantly converts CO2 in a carbon-based substance that is enhanced.

In recent years, researchers are looking for innovative methods to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a powerful greenhouse gas emitted by fossil fuel combustion. These gases lead climate change and global warming, often with dangerous effects on humans and ecosystems. "Materials like these are a step in the right direction," said Strano. "They are not only carbon-neutral, they are carbon-neutral."

Strano, post-doctoral associate Seon-Yeong Kwak and eight others at MIT and the University of California at Riverside, described their findings in a study recently published in the journal Advanced materials.

Chloroplasts catalyze the carbon dioxide reaction to glucose. However, isolated chloroplasts are very unstable, which means they tend to stop working after several hours when removed from the plant. Strano et al. Have developed ways to significantly increase the catalytic life of extracted chloroplasts and are planning to replace these chloroplasts with non-biological catalysts to further enhance their activity. The latter will be more stable, will last longer and perform the same functions, said Strano.

The material used by the researchers – a gel gel made up of a polymer made of aminopropyl methacrylamide (APMA) and glucose, an enzyme called glucose oxidase and chloroplasts – becomes stronger as it incorporates carbon. Although it is expected to work well as a coating or crack filling, it is still not strong enough to make building material. Additional advances in chemistry and materials science are required before they can be widely used in building and composite materials, the researchers said.

Still, scientists have said they are already in a position to produce the material from the tone. Initial commercial applications – self-coating and crack-filling – can be implemented in the near future, they said. "In its most basic form, the production of these materials is simple and should not be costly or complicated," said co-author Kwak, adding: "The material starts out as a liquid, it's exciting to watch it as it begins to grow and to rally "in a stable form.

The Ministry of Energy – which funded MIT's original project – is funding a new program to expand the survey and asked Strano to run it, according to MIT. "The science of materials has never produced such a thing," said Strano. "These materials mimic some aspects of what they are living, even if they do not reproduce it.

"There is coal everywhere," he added. "We build the world with carbon, people are made of carbon, carbon dioxide does not need to be net weight and cost, it's also an opportunity." Making a material that can have access to plenty of carbon around us is an important opportunity for the science of materials. "

Marlene Cimons writes about Nexus Media, a merged newsswire that covers climate, energy, politics, art, and culture.