Genetically engineered viruses injected into tobacco plants trigger the plants to grow solar cells.
- Synthetic solar cells can be grown in tobacco plants and E. coli bacteria.
- The method offers a cheap, environmentally friendly way to make electricity.
- Tapping the plants exploits an already efficient system, honed by millions of years of evolution.
Tobacco plants could help wean the world from fossil fuels, according to scientists from the University of California, Berkeley.
In a paper in the journal ACS Nano Letters, Matt Francis and his colleagues used genetically engineered bacteria to produce the building blocks for artificial photovoltaic and photochemical cells. The technique could be more environmentally friendly than traditional methods of making solar cells and could lead to cheap, temporary and biodegradable solar cells.
"Over billions of years, evolution has established exactly the right distances between chromophore to allow them to collect and use light from the sun with unparalleled efficiency," said Francis. "We are trying to mimic these finely tuned systems using the tobacco mosaic virus."