Researchers and Engineers have been looking for new inspiring ways to solve problems using biology as the ultimate design guide. I recently read an article titled “Polymethacrylamide and Carbon Composites that Grow, Strengthen, and Self‐Repair using Ambient Carbon Dioxide Fixation” (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/adma.201804037) in the Advanced Materials Journal. In the new study, Chemical Engineers demonstrated how to design a material that is capable of drawing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the atmosphere and use the CO2 to grow and repair itself. Researchers used Polymethacrylamide and carbon composites in “a gel matrix containing aminopropyl methacrylamide (APMA), glucose oxidase (GOx), and nanoceria‐stabilized extracted chloroplasts that is able to grow, strengthen, and self‐repair using carbon fixation. Glucose produced from the embedded chloroplasts is converted to gluconolactone (GL) via GOx, polymerizing with APMA to form a continuously expanding and strengthening polymethacrylamide.” The system achieves an average growth rate of 60 cubic micrometers per hour per chloroplast under ambient CO2 and illumination over 18 hours, thickening with a shear modulus of 3 kPa. The material demonstrates self repair using the glucose from chloroplasts and chemical cross-linking. These results demonstrate a material that is capable of using atmospheric CO2 fixation finding an application in the coatings industry as well as a carbon negative foot print for maintaining the environment.
A Chloroplast is a plastid that contains chlorophyll in which photosynthesis takes place. The chloroplast is the component of plants that harvest and transform light into energy. The APMA was suspended in a hydrogel and was combined with ceria-stabilized chloroplasts that were removed from spinach, mixed with an enzyme called glucose oxidase (GOx). When this hydrogel mixture was exposed to light (standard ambient sunlight) and air the chloroplasts produced glucose. At this point the GOx enzyme begins to run on the energy produced from the chloroplast (glucose) and converts the glucose into gluconolacetone (GL) which reacts with the APMA. This reaction forms a glucose-containing polymethacrylamide (GPMAA). The reaction was reported to be so rapid, researchers are able to observe the film growth as the material turns into solid form (from liquid to a solid). One of the biggest design problems is that chloroplasts are not well designed to function properly when separated from their biological origin (their plant homes). Once a chloroplast is removed from a plant (the spinach plant in this case) it only functions for a few hours up to maybe one day before stopping. As a result, researchers chemically treat the chloroplasts to increase their stability and functionality to produce glucose. Efforts are being made to switch to a non-biological extracted alternative.
What is interesting about this research from a spiritual application, is how man is taking as a design guide from the biological world and extracting materials for a task specific use. In this case, the chloroplasts continue to manufacture glucose, but do not do so in the environment they were designed for. Once being removed from its intended place, it looses its functionality and stops working. The spiritual application that we find here is related to our purpose, design, and the place the Lord God Almighty has for each one of us. When we change God’s intended purpose for our lives, i.e. taking ourselves out of a relationship with him, or placing Him in a secondary position in our lives, we do not bring glory to God, and we fall into sin and rebellion. In other words, we can’t be all we’ve been created to be when we are outside of what God wants for our lives. Sin has the tendency to produce a fruit that is opposite of what God wants. As a result, we can become very dissatisfied in our lives and with everything we do. We’ve been taught to believe that dissatisfaction is a bad thing, and that we should do everything possible to avoid it. If we are dissatisfied, we should just shove it down, ignore it, act like it doesn’t bother us, take a pill (drugs) to hide it, plaster on a fake smile, try to buy our ways out of it by buying something new, or just decide that misery is part of the burden of life, or from a Christian perspective saying “dissatisfaction is the cross that I am given to bear.” The point that we take from this novel research (chloroplasts loosing their functionality) is the reason we may feel uncomfortable in life or dissatisfied, the Lord God Almighty may be using these things to make us realize that we are living and walking outside of His intended purpose and way of life. In addition, dissatisfaction may also be the result of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-12) and an additional indication that something is going on in the background where the Lord is at work. These things may be the sign that the Lord is calling you to another purpose. David said the following in His Psalms.
Tehillim / Psalms 57:1-3
57:1 Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge Until destruction passes by. 57:2 I will cry to God Most High, To God who accomplishes all things for me. 57:3 He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah. God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth. (NASB, א לַמְנַצֵּחַ אַל-תַּשְׁחֵת לְדָוִד מִכְתָּם בְּבָרְחוֹ מִפְּנֵי-שָׁאוּל בַּמְּעָרָה: ב חָנֵּנִי אֱלֹהִים | חָנֵּנִי כִּי בְךָ חָסָיָה נַפְשִׁי וּבְצֵל-כְּנָפֶיךָ אֶחְסֶה עַד יַעֲבֹר הַוּוֹת: ג אֶקְרָא לֵאלֹהִים עֶלְיוֹן לָאֵל גֹּמֵר עָלָי: ד יִשְׁלַח מִשָּׁמַיִם | וְיוֹשִׁיעֵנִי חֵרֵף שֹׁאֲפִי סֶלָה יִשְׁלַח אֱלֹהִים חַסְדּוֹ וַאֲמִתּוֹ: )
Tehillim / Psalms 63:5-8
63:5 My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. 63:6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, 63:7 For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. 63:8 My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. (NASB, ו כְּמוֹ חֵלֶב וָדֶשֶׁן תִּשְֹבַּע נַפְשִׁי וְשִֹפְתֵי רְנָנוֹת יְהַלֶּל-פִּי: ז אִם-זְכַרְתִּיךָ עַל-יְצוּעָי בְּאַשְׁמֻרוֹת אֶהְגֶּה-בָּךְ: ח כִּי-הָיִיתָ עֶזְרָתָה לִּי וּבְצֵל כְּנָפֶיךָ אֲרַנֵּן: ט דָּבְקָה נַפְשִׁי אַחֲרֶיךָ בִּי תָּמְכָה יְמִינֶךָ: )
David’s Psalm states “you are my help… and I will sing for joy.” This describes us of having a place to go, someone to hold on to, so that we do not wander aimlessly through life. We can actually sing for joy because the Lord God Almighty is with us. This is key in our understanding the purpose of God for our lives (Tehillim / Psalm 57:2, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”). Without the direction of the Lord, one will feel a constant sense of aimlessness. This is why the Lord gave us His Word at the mountain of Sinai and throughout the history of Israel, so we will know the Lord God Almighty, His Messiah, and His will and purpose for our lives. Many times we try to grow and repair ourselves without looking to the Lord or His word for spiritual growth. This is like the researchers who are looking for a non-biological solution to their problem. In the Spiritual realm, there is no alternative solution to having faith in the Lord God our Father in heaven, in His Messiah Yeshua, and obedience to his commands.
In parallel to what we find in the research paper, once a chloroplast is removed from a plant it only functions for a few hours to a day before stopping. This is like our trying to live our lives outside of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven signifies acknowledging God’s presence in every aspect of human existence and working alongside God in His ways. This is synonymous to the chloroplast remaining in the plant and then having no set time limit on its proper function. This is why the spiritual leaders of ancient Judaism sought to obey God’s will as they acknowledged His divine lordship in every aspect of their daily lives found in obedience to His commands. In a similar manner, Yeshua the Messiah focused upon God’s kingdom, His reign in our lives, and His commands as a way of life (see John 12:50). All of these things are coupled to the concept of God’s sovereignty over our lives, and this comes by our making the conscious decision to ask Him into our hearts to be Lord over our lives, and then being empowered by the Spirit to live in God’s ways for His Glory!