Nano-Microbial Factories: Light-Driven Renewable Biochemical Synthesis Using Quantum Dot-Bacteria Nanobiohybrids – A Spiritual Insight

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Recently, researchers have developed a nanobio-hybrid organism that is capable of using carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2) from the air to produce a variety of plastics and fuels. [1] The University of Colorado in Boulder have coupled nanoscale materials with bacteria enzyme sites to do something spectacular. Researchers have been working on interfacing inorganic materials with organic materials for years in order to harness the ability to control enzymatic processes. This type of control occurs by the chemical coupling between optoelectronic states of artificial materials with bacteria. The most difficult task was to design the appropriate interfaces to ensure biocompatibility. In this research quantum dots (QDs) were used as a way for producing excitations for targeting enzyme sites in bacteria. Activation of the quantum dots ranged from using ultraviolet to the near-infrared in the electromagnetic spectrum. Quantum dots are man-made nanoscale crystals that can transport electrons. When UV light hits these semiconducting nanoparticles, they can emit light of various colors. These artificial semiconductor nanoparticles have found applications in composites, solar cells and fluorescent biological labels, and now for the activation of enzymatic processes in bacteria. When quantum dots are exposed to UV-light, the electrons drive the renewable production of different biofuels and chemicals using CO2, water (H2O), and N2 as substrates. The biofuels that were produced were isopropanol (IPA), 2,3-butanediol (BDO), C11–C15 methyl ketones (MKs), and hydrogen (H2); and chemicals such as formic acid (FA), ammonia (NH3), ethylene (C2H4), and degradable bioplastics  such as polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB).

References

  1. Yuchen Ding, John R. Bertram, Carrie Eckert, Rajesh Reddy Bommareddy, Rajan Patel, Alex Conradie, Samantha Bryan, Prashant Nagpal. Nanorg microbial factories: Light-driven renewable biochemical synthesis using quantum dot-bacteria nano-biohybrids. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 26, 10272-10282; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jacs.9b02549

The research on this technology began back in 2013 by studying the types of applications for QDs. The neat thing about QDs is they can be injected into cells passively and are designed to attach and self-assemble to the desired enzymes that are being studied. These enzymes may then be activated using wavelengths of light such as ultraviolet (UV). The next step in the research was to understand how this works, and if it was possible to use this technology of enzyme activation to convert CO2 and N2 to valuable chemicals. This is analogous to a man made process of photosynthesis. The bacteria used were A. vinelandii and C. necator and are commonly found in soil. The QDs were bound to the molybdenum−iron nitrogenase (MFN) enzyme of a synthetic bacteria.  The QDs + enzymes allow for the CO2 and N2 conversion without the need for any source energy or food to carry out the energy intensive biochemical conversions. The research paper demonstrates the yield of product exceeds the natural yield of the bacterial by close to 200 percent. The paper describes how green wavelengths cause the bacteria to consume nitrogen to produce ammonia, and red wavelengths cause the microbes to consume CO2 to produce plastic. This bacterial process also shows promise to be used at scale, meaning this may be scaled up for mass production. The current focus is now on optimization where new undergraduate and graduate students will use this project in their thesis for future work.

The Spiritual insights we receive from this type of work is related to how researchers were able to passively introduce the nano-dots into the biological system to affect a particular biological enzymatic process which is controllable by exposing the nanobio-hybrid organism to light. What is more interesting is how the light provides the added energy to drive the reactions to useful products without the need for sugars (glycolysis) as fuel for the reaction. There are many parallels here, the sugars may be abstracted to works without faith, or to using a worldly process to produce a functional outcome. The light may be paralleled to the Lord God supernaturally working a good work in our lives, or how the word of God feeds the spirit, washes the soul, and renews the inward man. The light may also be respesentative of God’s Righteousness, Holiness, and Truth that is found in the Messiah Yeshua is a fundamental principle that is needed for each and every one of us. These things are not acquired by an external process, they are passively put into us via the Spirit of God by faith in His Messiah Yeshua. This week’s research inspires the very message of the gospel itself! When our lives are transformed by the power of God we become sensitive to the light of His righteousness in our lives, to the calling of the Spirit to walk in His ways, to study His Word, and to draw near in prayer and humbleness of heart and soul. Just as the researchers introduce the QDs in order to modify the functionality of the bacteria, the Lord God does something very similar by the indwelling of His Spirit to effect a functional change in our lives towards righteousness, holiness, justice, and truth! The purpose of these things in our lives is so we become a valuable product in the kingdom of God to serve His purposes.

King Solomon wrote in Mishley / Proverbs 6:23 כִּ֤י נֵ֣ר מִ֭צְוָה וְת֣וֹרָה א֑וֹר וְדֶ֥רֶךְ חַ֝יִּ֗ים תּוֹכְח֥וֹת מוּסָֽר׃ 6:23 For a mitzvah is a lamp [(which illumines for a given time)], and Torah is light [(which illumines forever)], and the chastisements of mussar are [(what impel a man to)] the road of life. (SEFARIA) Notice how Solomon states that the Torah is a light, and the commandment is a lamp. The chastisement of Mussar (instruction) leads one to the road of life. This verse speaks of the importance of God’s Word in our lives, the significance of being instructed in God’s Word, the chastisements or struggles we go through, and the spiritual practice of applying God’s Word to our lives, the difficulties in this life mold and shape us and provides us with concrete instructions on how to live a meaningful and ethical life according to God’s Word. The Mishnah Pirkei Avot 6:6 states the following concerning these things:

Mishnah Pirkei Avot 6:6
גְּדוֹלָה תוֹרָה יוֹתֵר מִן הַכְּהֻנָּה וּמִן הַמַּלְכוּת, שֶׁהַמַּלְכוּת נִקְנֵית בִּשְׁלֹשִׁים מַעֲלוֹת, וְהַכְּהֻנָּה בְּעֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבַּע, וְהַתּוֹרָה נִקְנֵית בְּאַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמֹנָה דְבָרִים. וְאֵלוּ הֵן, בְּתַלְמוּד, בִּשְׁמִיעַת הָאֹזֶן, בַּעֲרִיכַת שְׂפָתַיִם, בְּבִינַת הַלֵּב, בְּשִׂכְלוּת הַלֵּב, בְּאֵימָה, בְּיִרְאָה, בַּעֲנָוָה, בְּשִׂמְחָה, בְּטָהֳרָה, בְּשִׁמּוּשׁ חֲכָמִים, בְּדִקְדּוּק חֲבֵרִים, וּבְפִלְפּוּל הַתַּלְמִידִים, בְּיִשּׁוּב, בַּמִּקְרָא, בַּמִּשְׁנָה, בְּמִעוּט סְחוֹרָה, בְּמִעוּט דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, בְּמִעוּט תַּעֲנוּג, בְּמִעוּט שֵׁינָה, בְּמִעוּט שִׂיחָה, בְּמִעוּט שְׂחוֹק, בְּאֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, בְּלֵב טוֹב, בֶּאֱמוּנַת חֲכָמִים, וּבְקַבָּלַת הַיִּסּוּרִין, הַמַּכִּיר אֶת מְקוֹמוֹ, וְהַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, וְהָעוֹשֶׂה סְיָג לִדְבָרָיו, וְאֵינוֹ מַחֲזִיק טוֹבָה לְעַצְמוֹ, אָהוּב, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמָּקוֹם, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַצְּדָקוֹת, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַמֵּישָׁרִים, אוֹהֵב אֶת הַתּוֹכָחוֹת, מִתְרַחֵק מִן הַכָּבוֹד, וְלֹא מֵגִיס לִבּוֹ בְתַלְמוּדוֹ, וְאֵינוֹ שָׂמֵחַ בְּהוֹרָאָה, נוֹשֵׂא בְעֹל עִם חֲבֵרוֹ, מַכְרִיעוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת, מַעֲמִידוֹ עַל הָאֱמֶת, וּמַעֲמִידוֹ עַל הַשָּׁלוֹם, מִתְיַשֵּׁב לִבּוֹ בְתַלְמוּדוֹ, שׁוֹאֵל וּמֵשִׁיב, שׁוֹמֵעַ וּמוֹסִיף, הַלּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לְלַמֵּד וְהַלּוֹמֵד עַל מְנָת לַעֲשׂוֹת, הַמַּחְכִּים אֶת רַבּוֹ, וְהַמְכַוֵּן אֶת שְׁמוּעָתוֹ, וְהָאוֹמֵר דָּבָר בְּשֵׁם אוֹמְרוֹ, הָא לָמַדְתָּ שֶׁכָּל הָאוֹמֵר דָּבָר בְּשֵׁם אוֹמְרוֹ מֵבִיא גְאֻלָּה לָעוֹלָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (אסתר ב) וַתֹּאמֶר אֶסְתֵּר לַמֶּלֶךְ בְּשֵׁם מָרְדֳּכָי: Greater is learning Torah than the priesthood and than royalty, for royalty is acquired by thirty stages, and the priesthood by twenty-four, but the Torah by forty-eight things. By study, Attentive listening, Proper speech, By an understanding heart, By an intelligent heart, By awe, By fear, By humility, By joy, By attending to the sages, By critical give and take with friends, By fine argumentation with disciples, By clear thinking, By study of Scripture, By study of mishnah, By a minimum of sleep, By a minimum of chatter, By a minimum of pleasure, By a minimum of frivolity, By a minimum of preoccupation with worldly matters, By long-suffering, By generosity, By faith in the sages, By acceptance of suffering. [Learning of Torah is also acquired by one] Who recognizes his place, Who rejoices in his portion, Who makes a fence about his words, Who takes no credit for himself, Who is loved, Who loves God, Who loves [his fellow] creatures, Who loves righteous ways, Who loves reproof, Who loves uprightness, Who keeps himself far from honors, Who does not let his heart become swelled on account of his learning, Who does not delight in giving legal decisions, Who shares in the bearing of a burden with his colleague, Who judges with the scales weighted in his favor, Who leads him on to truth, Who leads him on to peace, Who composes himself at his study, Who asks and answers, Who listens [to others], and [himself] adds [to his knowledge], Who learns in order to teach, Who learns in order to practice, Who makes his teacher wiser, Who is exact in what he has learned, And who says a thing in the name of him who said it. Thus you have learned: everyone who says a thing in the name of him who said it, brings deliverance into the world, as it is said: “And Esther told the king in Mordecai’s name” (Esther 2:22).

Note how the sages elevate the study of God’s Words to the highest level, even above the priesthood and royalty. They say the study of God’s Word is attained by 48 things and list the characteristics of one who has been transformed inwardly by the power of God in their lives to have a desire to study God’s Word. Often in mainstream Christianity, the “Old Testament” (Tanach) is considered virtually irrelevant. The mistake of such an opinion is illustrated in how Yeshua and all his disciples were Torah observant Jews. The NT scriptures are filled with quotes from the Tanach. Yeshua taught from Devarim / Deuteronomy more than any other book, and the Torah series last year showed how the gospel message is laid out in the book of Deuteronomy. The greatest commandment from the Torah, Yeshua quoted saying the ve’ahavta portion of the Shema (ה וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ:), “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:5), and then He added the commandment, וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי יְהוָֹה, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord” (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:18). Both of these commandments come directly from the Torah. One of the most interesting observations from the NT is how all of the Tanach was called Torah (the instruction of God). (see John 10:34 “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”‘? NASB, The quote from John 10:34 is to Tehillim / Psalms.) Once we become aware of how influential the Tanach (God’s Word) is to our understanding of our faith, we learn how all of us, both Jew and Gentile are made a part of God’s family by means of God’s love, His mercy/grace (Chesed) as it has been extended to us through His Son Yeshua the Messiah. He alone is our Savior and Advocate, and there is no zechut (merit) or kapparah (forgiveness) before the LORD apart from Him. This is the parallel we find in the Scientific research where scientists passively introduced the QDs into the biological systems and the QDs self assembled at the precise enzymatic sites for a special purpose. The standard pathway of glycolysis (paralleled to the way of the world) is not necessary when the light is shinning the electrons are generated to drive the reaction. This is paralleled to the light of God’s Word, the light of His presence, the light of His Spirit in our lives! (i.e. Glycolysis is the process of breaking down a glucose molecule into two pyruvate molecules, while storing energy released during this process as ATP and NADH are manufactured. In some tissues and organisms, glycolysis is the sole method of energy production. This pathway is common to both anaerobic and aerobic respiration.) In this scientific research, light itself provides the energy needed to drive the reaction. Similarly, it is Yeshua himself who is necessary to drive the spirit that is within. We must have faith in Him and we must receive the Holy Spirit of God into our lives! There is no zechut (merit) on our own, which for this particular aspect of research is paralleled to the energy pathway of glycolysis. For the CO2, H2O, N2 conversion to fuels and plastics to occur, only the presence of the QDs and UV-light are required to drive the catalytic enzymatic reactions. Similarly, there is only a supernatural process of the light of God in our lives that is causal (God Spirit is the driving force) for the desire to live a righteous and holy life. The awesome point about these things is how these are an observable phenomenon. Not just for the scientific research, but also the supernatural effect that God has on our lives! Each and every one of us should be able to observe the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. (See Galatians 5:22-23 defines the fruit of the Spirit as: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. NIV) If you DO observe the fruits of the Spirit, Praise the Lord! If you DO NOT observe the fruits of the Spirit, then it is time for self inspection and examination to understand why? This is a matter of faith and faithfulness! A question we can ask “Are simply going to church each week, claiming faith in Yeshua, and believing one is going to heaven a demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit?” As you mature and grow older in your faith, are the fruits of the Spirit (according to Galatians 5:22-23) increasing?  Do you have greater love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as you get older and mature in the Lord? This is a very important question, think about it and take this question very seriously! Shouldn’t there be more of each of these as we walk with God through the years? These are important questions! If the answer is NO, there is a very present danger that is at hand. The danger is described by something Yeshua said according to John 15:1-14.

John 15:1-14
15:1 ‘I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 15:2 ‘Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 15:3 ‘You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 15:4 ‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 15:5 ‘I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 15:6 ‘If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 15:7 ‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 15:8 ‘My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 15:9 ‘Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 15:10 ‘If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 15:11 ‘These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. 15:12 ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 15:13 ‘Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 15:14 ‘You are My friends if you do what I command you. (NASB)

Notice something here about this story Yeshua is explaining to us. This has great practical value and application for our lives today.  Yeshua said the Father (YHVH) is the vinedresser, he is the vine, and we are the branches. Note how the gentile believers are said to be grafted into the vine. We are not natural branches. If one does not bear fruit, Yeshua says that this branch that bears NO fruit, is cut off, cast into the fire, and burned! Think about these things in relation to the eternal security doctrines taught in the Church. Now consider the importance of looking into our lives to see if we are bearing fruit for the kingdom of God. Are you bearing spiritual fruit? Are these things really important to you? Are you able to observe the “catalytic property” of God working in your life, just like the researchers were able to observe the light coupled with the QDs driving the enzymatic catalytic reactions?

The research for this week draws out for us a spiritual insight on the importance of God working in our lives to produce fruit in the sense of these things bearing evidence for the presence of God in our lives.  This is absolutely what we must be looking for in our lives! This was one of the major themes in the Torah Repentance Series we went through a few years back. We can know without a doubt that God, His Messiah Yeshua, and His Holy Spirit exist and are working in our lives.  The power of God in our lives empowers us to overcome sin, just as Yeshua said we are to abide in him and we are to obey His commandments!  When we seek God’s help, we are seeking His presence in our lives. When we have the Messiah in our lives, and God’s Spirit in our hearts, we are transformed and bear much fruit! Our lives begin to function in parallel fashion as we see in the scientific research on the development of a nanobio-hybrid organism that is capable of using carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen (N2) from the air to produce a variety of plastics and fuels.

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Duane D. Miller received his Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. Degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Akron Ohio. He is currently a Chemical Engineering Researcher. Duane’s research expertise has focused upon functional materials development for the control, conversion, and release of process gases in Energy production technologies. His R&D interests include computational chemistry, developing novel technologies for converting biomass to fuels and studying their fundamental interactions during the chemical conversion process. His past experience includes sorbent development for pre- and post-combustion CO2 and SO2 capture, selective absorption of H2S from methane streams, O2 capture for oxy-fuel combustion, photocatalytic reduction of alcohols, NOx reduction catalysis, the development of oxygen carriers to combust fossil fuels (CH4 and coal) for the chemical looping combustion processes, and the extraction of rare earth elements using patent pending sorbents. His research expertise has focused on operando-characterization using Infrared, Raman, and UV-Vis spectroscopy to observe the nature of the catalytic active sites and reaction intermediates under realistic reaction conditions, allowing direct correlation of molecular/electronic structures with catalyst performance during Gas-Solid / Liquid-Solid Adsorption and Photocatalytic Processes with real time online analysis of reaction products using ICP-MS and mass spectrometry. His current work involves a multi-disciplinary approach to developing, understanding, and improving the catalytic gasification of coal and methane, high temperature chemical looping combustion, and the catalytic decomposition and gasification of biomass and coal using novel microwave reactor.​ He has been studying the Hebrew Scriptures and the Torah for 20+ years and sharing what he has learned. The studies developed for MATSATI.COM are freely to be used by everyone, to God be the Glory!