Tobacco plants are probably looking at greener credentials, and a product far more enticing than cigarettes. Researchers at UC Berkeley have succeeded in making the plant grow synthetic photovoltaic cells. These cells can then be extracted from the plants and be put to the job of solar cells.
Scientists did a bit of genetic engineering on the tobacco mosaic virus. Once the plant is sprayed with the virus, the virus gets into tightly coiled formations. Genetic changes on the virus make it create tiny structures called chromophores. It is these chromophores that turn light into high-powered electrons.
Once the chromophore structures are extracted from the plant, they can be added to a solution and sprayed over a substrate to create solar cells. These solar cells don’t nearly have the same output as conventional silicon cells, but they are a lot more environment friendly to produce, biodegradable and cheap, making the entire process a lot more environment friendly.