RE:artificial photosynthesis, was Extropian Principles

From: altamira (
Date: Sat Jun 10 2000 - 16:30:25 MDT

I have to confess that biomass gasification is not of special interest to
me, although I'm aware of some businesses that are using the process. I'm
far more interested in artificial photosynthesis, and although I'm not
actively involved in the research, I try to keep up with it. There are all
sorts of exciting possibiilities, including the use of the photosynthetic
process in molecular-scale computers. I went so far as seeking permission
from the University of Texas to do an inter-disciplinary, inter-university
PhD program--my main faculty adviser would have been at UT, but the other
committee members would have been at other universities. But in the end, I
decided against doing it, because I wanted to concentrate on the less formal
research I'm doing here on my land.

In assessing the relative benefits of continuing as I am vs. becoming
associated with an institution, I give great weight to the ability to use my
time as I want to use it and to stay out of institutional politics. My
temperment is such that I become easily bored--I dislike doing meticulous
lab work and would rather read someone's else's results than do the lab work
myself. I think there's a need for people with a broad range of interests to
read and understand research being done in various fields and to integrate
the information. I've read and thought a great deal but have been lazy about
writing things down. Being on this list is showing me that I need to work
on my communications skills and sharpen my wits. (Thank you all)

As far as theoretical limits on the amount of carbohydrate that can be
gleaned from solar radiation via photosynthesis, other than limits imposed
by the sun's lifespan, I'm not aware of any limits over time. There would
be limits to the amount of solar energy that could be captured in any given
space during a finite timespan, but the limits of naturally occurring
photosynthesis could theoretically be pushed way up. Only 1-2% of the solar
radiation falling on a plant leaf ends up being stored by the plant (this
varies according to the species of plant, temperature, concentration of CO2
in the air, availability of N, etc.) . Since no one (at least as far as I
know) fully understands the photosynthetic process, it's hard to say exactly
what the limit would be.

What I'm doing on my land is testing the limits of what can be obtained from
naturally occurring plants (and any genetically engineered plants I can get
my hands on that do what I want them to do, which the ones currently on the
market don't). I'm looking to push down the mimimum amount of space
required for indefinitely providing all the nutrients needed by a person,
without using soil amendments, pesticides, or any other substance not
produced on the land itself; and at the same time to see what's the minimum
amount of work required to accomplish this. Since I'm gardening in sand, you
might say I started from scratch. I've had good results with unconventional
techniques, such as planting annual and perennial vegetable food crops
around the bases of nitrogen-fixing trees such as mesquite.


P.S. Here's an interesting news bulletin about photovoltaics which use
chlorophyll-like dyes (still in the research stage, as far as I know)

-----Original Message-----
[]On Behalf Of
Sent: Saturday, June 10, 2000 12:56 PM
Subject: Re: Extropian Principles

This sounds fascinating to me. Are you working on 'synthetic photosyntheis'
or biomass gasification? Can humankind and robot-kind produce enough fuel to
power civilization? Is there a theoretical limit on what can be gleaned from
solar radiation and converted to hydrogen or hydrocarbon?

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