The first man-made, biologically functional leaf has been created as a way to provide oxygen for people while exploring space.
The leaf was created by Royal College of Art graduate Julian Melchiorri, and has the ability to absorb carbon dioxide, light, and water, as well as release oxygen, according to CNET. Chloroplasts, the part of a plant cell where photosynthesis takes places, are added to the leaf and are hung in a material made of silk protein.
"This material has an amazing property of stabilizing (the chloroplast) organelles," Melchiorri said in a video. "As an outcome I have the first photosynthetic material that is living and breathing as a leaf does."
The invention may be able to solve the problem of plants being unable to survive in zero gravity for long periods of time. However, they serve as a better alternative to producing oxygen with tanks containing O2, Gizmodo reported.
While the leaf has a better chance of surviving on Earth, it functions well enough for its plant cells to produce oxygen when given access to light and water.
Melchiorri believes the leaf can serve other purposes besides being used for space travel, such as providing fresh air to indoor and outdoor spaces here on Earth, CNET reported. Buildings and lampshades could also make use of the leaf by producing fresh air through their ventilation systems. The leaf could possibly even take humanity past space travel and bring us one step closer to space colonization.