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Monday, July 11, 2011

Tobacco Mosaic Virus and Solar Cells

The idea of engineering viruses to suit human whims is not new, although it is possibly one of the greatest advancements in medical technology in recent history. In other medical news, we know that cigarettes and tobacco are bad for you. That's not really news. Sadly, the industry keeps people fed and state governments running and until the tobacco industry can be retooled as a force for good in the world it will continue to kill people.

Enter genetic tinkering that would make any sci-fi author proud: turning tobacco plants into solar-cells.

To get at the synthetic chromophores, scientists would have to harvest the plants, chop them up, and then 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.
Meaning they can't turn them into death sticks! Having buried relatives with lung cancer I can only see this as a win.

Yes, we can't just glue the plant leaves to the house and plug them in, but I think this is a great chance for the tobacco industry to retool it's output to something beneficial. We could grow solar cells, thus making them cheap and widely available. Plants are a completely renewable resource. I just don't see a downside here.


  1. That's a great find! I'm sure there's a story idea in there too... ;)

  2. With designer viruses there is always a story idea!