PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 31 (UPI) — Cars of the future could be fueled by tobacco, genetic-engineering university researchers in Philadelphia suggest.
“Tobacco is very attractive as a biofuel because the idea is to use plants that aren’t used in food production,” said Vyacheslav Andrianov, assistant professor of cancer biology at Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson Medical College.
While tobacco can generate biofuel more efficiently than other agricultural crops, most of its oil is typically found in its seeds, the researchers say in a study published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Tobacco plants don’t generally produce enough seeds to be useful — slightly more than 1,300 pounds an acre.
But Andrianov and his colleagues found ways of genetically engineering the plants so that their leaves express the oil — in some instances, 20 times more oil than occurs in nature, Andrianov said.
“Based on these data, tobacco represents an attractive and promising ‘energy plant’ platform and could also serve as a model for the utilization of other high-biomass plants for biofuel production,” he said.
Biofuels — liquid fuels derived from plant materials — are entering the market due to factors such as oil price spikes.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International