2085757314_c02bacc81dMoney may still not grow on trees, but solar cells apparently can grow on tobacco plants. Perhaps this sounds more astonishing to us, considering we only know two things about solar cells:

  1. They’re used to compose those multitude of reflective panels now spotting the roofs of Berkeley.
  2. They’re made out of silicon.

So this is basically like hearing that tobacco plants are now being used to make microchips or breast implants. According to a group of Berkeley scientists, the tobacco plant can be infected with a genetically engineered virus, to produce artificial photovoltaic and photochemical cells. So to modify our former analogy: money may not grow on trees, but tobacco plants can be genetically modified to produce artificial solar cells. Which, apparently, is just as good.

Here are the science-y details behind it:

The virus forces the plant to create artificial chromophores, structures that turn light into high powered electrons … Like a tightly coiled spiral staircase, individual chromophores are added one at a time until a rod hundreds of nanometers long is created … Trapped inside the plant, the tiny structures don’t produce electricity or chemicals. To get at the synthetic chromophores, scientists harvest the plants, chop them up, and extract the structures. Dissolved in a liquid solution, the structures are sprayed over a glass or plastic substrate coated with molecules that secure the rods to the plastic.

So what’s the solution to our fossil fuel addiction? The answer may very well be tobacco.

Image Source: perryk5 under Creative Commons
Tobacco Plants Tapped to Grow Solar Cells [Discovery News]

Wacław Symanski said:
Mar 23, 2012 at 12:07 am