Artificial Photosynthesis

WHAT IS PHOTOSYNTHESIS?

Photosynthesis is the biochemical process that occurs when plants convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen in the presence of sunlight. In this process, the sunlight provides the plant with the necessary energy for the reaction to occur. 

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL PHOTOSYNTHESIS? AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Artificial Photosynthesis has largely been studied as a green alternative to fossil fuel extraction from underground. It has been viewed as a possible mechanism to create carbon-based molecules, or even non-carbon-based molecules such as the case in photocatalytic water splitting, which could potentially be used to create our own sustainable supply of fuel. This process has been termed Artificial Photosynthesis because it replicates the natural process of photosynthesis from plants. The energy stored in the chemical bonds of these newly formed molecules could then possibly power our cars, planes, and other fuel-dependent devices.

HOW IS OUR PROCESS DIFFERENT?

Our mechanism of Artificial Photosynthesis is completely different than the process described above. While this invention and application are completely new, the underlying science behind this chemical reaction is already well known, documented, and established among scientists around the world. We designed and created our process to address the serious global hazard of air pollution. In our mechanism we can actually transform harmful air pollution into sugar, and other types of molecules. All of the molecules we make using this process, whether sugar, beneficial skin care molecules, or others, are considered using artificial photosynthesis since we are making new molecules using the power of the sun - described below. We accomplish this by reverse engineering polymers using simple organic chemistry. The data obtained from both ourselves and a third-party analytical chemistry company located here in the United States, clearly demonstrate that our technology is extremely effective at ozone destruction while transforming the ozone into newly intended molecules with extremely high purity.

Also, while Artificial Photosynthesis usually requires direct sunlight exposure, or at least the input of an external energy supply (whether a sustainable source like solar panels, or not), we actually harness the energy from the air pollution itself (ozone) to power the reaction. The ozone molecule is essentially a new sustainable energy source because the chemical bonds in the molecule actually store energy (from the sun) much like a battery does. This allows our technology to work indoors because the ozone that comes inside a home actually carries its own energy supply which allows the reaction to occur almost instantaneously upon exposure to our polymers.

MANY POSSIBILITIES

We are now using this artificial photosynthesis technology and other recently developed and proprietary technologies, to address many other markets with massive implications including targeted drug delivery, skin care/cosmetics, food ingredients, and many others.

Imagine if hospital walls and surfaces created their own disinfectants 24/7, while cleaning the air? Imagine as food ages, it creates its own vitamins and amino acids, while preventing much of the rancid smells? Imagine if we could create anti-aging molecules directly on consumers while they wear the products, for a more personalized skin care experience?

Our technology can do this.

Why Target Ground-Level Ozone? 

WHAT IS OZONE? HOW IS IT FORMED?

Ozone is a gas molecule that is made up of three oxygen atoms. It forms in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight, and other air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (both of which are emitted from cars). The sunlight provides the necessary energy in order for the chemical reaction to occur which allows ozone to form. This high amount of energy provided by the sun is stored in the chemical bonds of the ozone molecule, which makes it not only very reactive, but very harmful to our health. When ozone reaches high enough concentrations in the atmosphere, we refer to it as smog. While smog consists of a number of different air pollutants, ground-level ozone is the primary ingredient, and is one of its most toxic and harmful chemicals to our health (United States Environmental Protection Agency 2014). 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE OZONE LAYER AND GROUND-LEVEL OZONE

A good rule of thumb when talking about ozone is that it is "Good Up High, Bad Nearby" (U.S. EPA 2003). "Good" ozone refers to the ozone that is present very high in our atmosphere (6-30 miles above ground level). This ozone is very good for our planet and health. This ozone blocks a lot of the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays which could give us skin cancer. It also keeps the planet relatively cool by redirecting a lot of energy out of our atmosphere, which could otherwise cause our planet to heat up much faster. And because this ozone is so far away, we don't have to breathe it in which could pose serious health problems (2003).

"Bad" ozone, on the other hand, refers to ground-level ozone which is artificially created by humans and hovers relatively close to the ground. When inhaled this ozone can also pose health problems, especially to some of the more vulnerable populations such as those with a preexisting respiratory condition. This ozone is also a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and can hinder the ability of plants and crops to take in as much carbon dioxide (also a greenhouse gas) that they would normally. This ozone is the primary ingredient in smog (2003).

GROUND-LEVEL OZONE VERSUS OTHER AIR POLLUTANTS

There are almost an infinite number of chemicals and gases that exist in the atmosphere that we inhale everyday. Every single one of these gases and chemicals can be toxic to our health, depending on its concentration. As a result, governments and organizations around the world have created their own air quality standards. These standards essentially state which concentrations of the different air pollutants are considered safe and harmful.

Of all the air pollutants, the two air pollutants given the most attention in the news and by health officials around the world are ground-level ozone and particle pollution. This is because their concentrations commonly exceed the air quality standards that were set for them, far more than other air pollutants. In other words, as a result of their high concentration levels throughout the year, we have a greater chance of experiencing health effects as a direct result from ground-level ozone and particle pollution exposure than other air pollutants.

STATISTICS OF OZONE POLLUTION IN THE UNITED STATES

In the American Lung Association' State of the Air Report for 2015, they stated that "more than 4 in 10 people in the United States (40.7%) live in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone. Counties that were graded F for ozone levels have a combined population of more than 128.7 million" (American Lung Association 2015). For particle pollution, they stated that "more than 13 percent of people in the United States live in an area with too many days with unhealthful levels of particle pollution. Close to 41.7 million Americans live in 55 counties that experienced too many days with unhealthy spikes in particle pollution" (2015).

While both of these air pollutants are deleterious to our health, it is important to note in the above statistics that ground-level ozone affects roughly 3 times the amount of people as particle pollution (the next closest air pollutant) in the United States with unhealthy levels. This should demonstrate that ground-level ozone is a serious air pollutant that needs to be taken seriously, and measures should be done to lower their indoor concentrations, especially households most vulnerable to its deleterious effects.

TYPICAL OZONE REACTIONS IN HOMES

Ground-level ozone also reacts with random chemicals and surfaces inside homes. During this chemical reaction the ozone molecule is destroyed. However, this process could take a long time for ozone to reach safer levels, and the newly formed chemical byproducts from these reactions could actually be worse for your health than ozone. For example, while ground-level ozone has not been directly linked to cancer, it has been shown to produce formaldehyde as a chemical byproduct from these random chemical reactions which are cancer-causing molecules. This is why when looking for a solution to indoor ground-level ozone, it is important to look at the entire life cycle of the atoms in the ozone molecule, and not just the whole of the molecule itself.

PEOPLE MOST AFFECTED BY OZONE

The populations most affected by ground-level ozone are those with preexisting respiratory diseases, such as asthma and COPD. Other populations that are also vulnerable include those with cardiovascular disease, the elderly, children, and athletes (American Lung Association 2015). While every single person is affected by ozone, these are some of the categories that are most likely to experience noticeable physical symptoms.

PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS FROM OZONE EXPOSURE

Some of the noticeable physical symptoms that can arise from ground-level ozone exposure, whether long-term or short-term, include asthma attacks, pulmonary inflammation, COPD aggravation, heart attacks, heart disease, strokes, reproductive and developmental harm, and even premature death (American Lung Association 2015). It is important to note that even a healthy person can experience physical symptoms from ozone exposure, but might not even be aware of it. This could simply be reduced lung function when performing a physical activity outside, such as not being able to run as far in the summertime when ozone levels can be higher than normal. 

For more information regarding ground-level ozone, the groups most vulnerable to ozone, and the potential health problems it can cause, we recommend visiting the websites of the American Lung Association, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Health Organization.


References

Air Pollution Now Threatening Health Worldwide. (2015, November). In Worldwatch Institute. 

American Lung Association. (2015). Health Effects of Ozone and Particle Pollution. In State of the Air 2015. 

American Lung Association. (2015). Ozone Pollution. In State of the Air 2015. 

Connecticut Department of Public Health. (2007, May). Ozone Generators: What You Need to Know. In  Department of Public Health Fact Sheet. 

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2014, November 26). Basic Information. In U.S. EPA: Ground-Level Ozone.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2003, June). Ozone: Good Up High, Bad Nearby. 

United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2013, September 13). Questions About Your Community: Indoor Air. 

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (n.d.). The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality. In Safety Education.