A science team from the University of California developed a technique to grow plants even in the absence of sunlight. To grow the plants in complete darkness, the team employed a special bioengineered photosynthesis method. It could allow nations with limited sun exposure to produce more food, or even allow us to grow plants in space.
Plants use photosynthesis to convert solar radiation, water and energy into food. Plants rely on this mechanism to turn carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into food. This implies that crops and other plants need direct sunlight to grow properly.
What if there is no sunlight? Scientists discovered another way by publishing their findings in the journal Nature Food (I link them to you here).
How the UC Riverside technique works
To achieve growth in the absence of sunlight, the scientists employed a two-step electrocatalytic process to convert electricity, carbon dioxide and water into acetate - this is the component that plants have harnessed to grow in dark environments.
The process was so effective that researchers believe it is even more efficient for some foods than using sunlight.
I say that combining it with an array of solar panels would create a completely self-sufficient power system, capable of growing plants in any conditions.
Why do we need to grow plants without sunlight?
It may seem counterintuitive: after all, there is no place on this planet where sunlight doesn't come, right? Right?
No. There are many places on earth that experience long periods of darkness. Take Norway: there are places close to the city of Tromsø that let in sunlight they use giant mirrors. It is impossible to grow some plants for areas like this, if not with a system like this.
And then, as mentioned, for space exploration: growing plants without much light, or in the total absence of light, could literally change the way astronauts feed.
It is worthwhile to continue in this direction. Even with the headlights off, while we're at it.