Tobacco: It’s good for more than just giving you lung cancer. Scientists at UC Berkeley recently figured out a way to get tobacco plants to grow extractable synthetic photovoltaic and photochemical cells that can theoretically be sprayed onto a glass substrate to create solar panels.
The genetically modified tobacco plants grow artificial chromospheres, or structures that turn sunlight into electrons. The chromospheres are arranged so that they are far enough way from each other to maintain a current that allows the electrons to be harvested. The result: limitless, biodegradable solar cells, albeit ones that aren’t as effective as silicon cells.
Don’t invest in a tobacco-harvesting career quite yet–the researchers haven’t yet shown that their cells can produce usable electricity. But if they do, the tobacco industry could have a new leg to stand on in the wake of anti-smoking campaigns.