Nature combines complex biosynthetic and energy-converting tasks within cell divisions such as mitochondria and chloroplasts.

Chloroplasts convert light into chemical energy, driving carbon dioxide fixation. We used microfluidics to develop a chloroplast mimic by encapsulating and operating photosynthetic membranes in cell-sized droplets. These droplets can be energised by light to power enzymes or enzyme cascades and analyzed for their catalytic properties in multiplex and real-time. We demonstrate how these microdroplets can be programmed and controlled by adjusting internal compositions and by using light as an external trigger. We showcase the capability of our platform by integrating the crotonyl–coenzyme A (CoA)/ethylmalonyl-CoA/hydroxybutyryl-CoA (CETCH) cycle, a synthetic network for carbon dioxide conversion, to create an artificial photosynthetic system that interfaces the natural and the synthetic biological worlds.

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