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Bionic Leaf project creates natural fish food out of thin air — sort of

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Why it matters to you

Love to DIY? Try DIY-ing your food with Bionic Leaf, a technology that turns carbon dioxide into fuel for the body.

Forget turning water into wine. A new project wants to turn air into food. It’s called the Bionic Leaf, and it’s a new, almost sci-fi technology that claims to employ the power of the sun and bacteria to make food out of carbon dioxide.

So impressive is the concept that Bionic Leaf recently won a $100,000 Amazon Catalyst grant. The goal of the Bionic Leaf Bioreactor Development Kit is “to develop and disseminate a simple open-source kit using Microbial Electrolysis Carbon Capture technology to demonstrate the removal of excess CO2 from ambient air by converting it into methane fuel and food.”

What does that mean? In essence, Bionic Leaf wants to take carbon dioxide, a main culprit in the increasingly concerning issue of climate change, and turn it into fuel for the body. Not our bodies, necessarily — not yet, at least. Rather, for the time being, the byproducts of Bionic Leaf can be used as fish food, though other end results may soon take shape.

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The beauty of the Bionic Leaf, the team says, is that it might be able to mitigate or perhaps even “reverse the catastrophic buildup of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere … by mining carbon directly from the sky and sequestering it into useful products.” While the technology behind this project has been in the works for a few years now, the point of the new Development Kits is to make the tech more widely accessible. Indeed, the Bionic Leaf team noted on its website, “The project is educational in nature and will be the basis for courses and collaborations with other inventors and tinkerers.”

Mark Minie, an affiliate assistant professor in the University of Washington’s bioengineering department, and one of the masterminds behind the new project, told GeekWire that he hopes the kits will be similar to the computer building kits of the 1980s, and that they will “spark innovation and inspire young learners the way the originals did.”

So if you’re looking for a new DIY project, consider DIY-ing your own fish food out of nothing but the air around you.