Chinese scientists create starch from scratch

  
Via:  Buzz of the Orient  •  2 months ago  •  17 comments

By:   By Zhang Zhihao

Chinese scientists create starch from scratch
In space exploration, it may provide a sustainable food source for astronauts as they travel long distances in space and try to colonize other planets where growing food is unviable. Future space travelers may simply turn the carbon dioxide they breathe out into food they eat.

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Chinese scientists create starch from scratch

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Cai Tao, one of the first authors of the study, shows the sample of the starch. [Photo/Xinhua]


Chinese scientists have created starch, a type of complex carbohydrate found in plants, using carbon dioxide, hydrogen and electricity, according to a study published in the journal Science on Friday.

Experts said if such technique can be scaled-up to the level of industrialization, it may revolutionize how this key nutrient and industrial ingredient is made, since it does not require farming and processing large quantity of starchy crops such as sweet potato and maize, thus saving more water, fertilizer, and arable land.

It may also be used to recycle carbon dioxide, a common industrial waste and a greenhouse gas, into a consumable product. This will help reduce carbon emission and combat climate change, especially if the electricity used is from renewable sources like solar and wind.

In space exploration, it may provide a sustainable food source for astronauts as they travel long distances in space and try to colonize other planets where growing food is unviable. Future space travelers may simply turn the carbon dioxide they breathe out into food they eat.

Ma Yanhe, the director of the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said starch and other complex carbs make up of 60 to 80 percent of the human diet.

"Our breakthrough demonstrates that synthesizing complex compound like starch is achievable in a lab, and there are many industries that can benefit from this technology," he said.

Starches are widely used in sugar production, food and beverage processing, printing, drug-making, textile, animal forage and dozens of other industries, according to Bric International Group, a global agricultural data firm. This prompted the manufacturing of corn starch and its derivatives into an 80 billion yuan ($12.4 billion) industry in China.

Plants create carbohydrates like starch through photosynthesis, which is an extremely complex and inefficient process, said Ma, adding it would take a plant about 60 steps of metabolic reactions to turn carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into starch.

Cai Tao, one of the first authors of the study, said for six years, his team has been focusing on a single project: how to make starch like plants, but do it much faster.

Creating carbohydrate via more effective means is so important for sustainability on Earth and future space exploration that NASA listed converting carbon dioxide to glucose, a simple sugar, as one of its centennial challenges in 2018. Starch is made of a much more complex chain of glucose molecules.

Cai said their method involves first converting carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas into methanol, which is molecule that contain a single carbon atom.

Scientists then piece these single-carbon molecules like a puzzle into bigger and more complex molecules via enzymatic processes.

With the help of supercomputing, Chinese scientists have streamlined the natural starch making process from about 60 into 11 steps, with the final product being starch. Cai said the lab-made starch is chemically identical to starch in nature, whose solution can turn blue with iodine.




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Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient    2 months ago

A great scientific advance.

 
 
 
bccrane
Freshman Silent
1.1  bccrane  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @1    2 months ago

The next step, feed it into a replicator and 3D print out your food Star Trek style.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2  Vic Eldred    2 months ago

Let's give credit where credit is due. 

Will this one day be called the Chinese century?

There was a time when America was the country that mastered manufacturing, mass production and making things easy to use:

Alcoa Aluminum ad of the 1950's:
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But I think we can finally say that China has arrived!

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @2    2 months ago

Love those old ads.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1    2 months ago

They seemed to make their point. In Alcoa's case, they made a twist cap that even a woman could open!

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1.2  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.1    2 months ago

One point those old ads showed was the feelings at the time that women were inferior.  Thankfully ads now don't show that it's actually men who could be.

 
 
 
shona1
Sophomore Participates
2.1.3  shona1  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.2    2 months ago

Morning Buzz..I use to work for Alcoa...thank goodness they have progressed since those days.. The smelter where I worked the Chinese own 25% of it..use to see them around the Plant and they were always up for a gas bag...

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1.4  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  shona1 @2.1.3    2 months ago

Okay, THAT one you'll have to translate for me - "a gas bag"?

 
 
 
shona1
Sophomore Participates
2.1.5  shona1  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.4    2 months ago

Sorry.... talk, speak...We also say up for a yack...and no that is not one of those hairy beasts from the Himalayas..

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1.6  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  shona1 @2.1.5    2 months ago

I would have understood had you said yack, and I know that's not a yak. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.7  Vic Eldred  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.2    2 months ago

I thought it just meant that men were stronger?

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1.8  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.7    2 months ago

Weren't those the days when women were deemed to only be capable of being barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, or was that just repression?

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1.9  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.7    2 months ago

Oh, and by the way, my wife isn't an Amazon, but if I can't open the top of a jar or bottle I give it to her to open, and she does it.  LOL.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.10  Vic Eldred  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.8    2 months ago

That was a misconception:

Between 1946 and 1964, the largest generation of Americans, known as the  baby boomers , was born. This demographic trend in turn reinforced women’s identities as wives and mothers. Despite societal norms that encouraged women to stay in the home and out of the workplace, approximately forty percent of women with young children, and at least half of women with older children, chose to remain in the work force.




th?id=OIP.KEqfLAzFDcNrUue5AcKM0wHaJU&w=139&h=160&c=8&rs=1&qlt=90&o=6&pid=3.1&rm=2

They were awesome!

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.11  Vic Eldred  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.9    2 months ago
Oh, and by the way,

Yes, by the way, they even saved lives

OIP.x5J0ABpp-io7E-ZjU-ww4wHaJd?w=150&h=191&c=7&r=0&o=5&pid=1.7

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
2.1.12  seeder  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.11    2 months ago

Although when in Canada all the doctors I ever used were men, here in China the very best doctors I have used are women, both general practitioners and specialists.

 
 
 
bccrane
Freshman Silent
3  bccrane    2 months ago

The last obstacle, which limited human population, has now been removed, the waiting for plants to produce the food.

With this technology, plants are no longer needed.

 
 
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