Plant inspiration for water power reported in New Scientist 14 August 1999. Two Yale University chemists, Gary Brudvig and Robert Crabtree, have built a system of manganese ions and other chemicals that splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen whenever electrons are removed from the system. They hope that one day this will provide a cheap, plentiful supply of oxygen for industrial chemistry and hydrogen for fuel.

They were inspired by the fact that sunlight on a green plant knocks electrons off chlorophyll molecules. This starts a series of complex chemical reactions that eventually make food for the plant. The chlorophyll molecules need to be constantly replenished with electrons in order to keep the system going. A group of proteins and manganese ions does this by breaking up water molecules into electrons, hydrogen ions and oxygen. The electrons are given to the chlorophyll, the hydrogen ions are channelled into other chemical reactions and the oxygen is released into the air. Brudvig and Crabtree hope to eventually develop a similar system that runs on sunlight (like plants), rather than chemicals – the ultimate environmentally friendly fuel.

Editorial Comment: The creative intelligence of chemists and biologists remind us we are made in the image of God so that we might understand the world around us and create useful things from it. It also reminds us of the supreme intelligence of Christ the Creator who made the living systems which inspire chemists and biologists to copy them. (Ref. plants, chlorophyll, design)