We’ve seen biofuels made from some pretty strange substances — tuberculosis bacteria, watermelons, and chocolate, to name a few — but a new effort to gather biofuel from tobacco leaves might win the award for best use of a carcinogenic plant. Researchers at the Biotechnology Foundation Laboratory at Thomas Jefferson University recently discovered that tweaking the genes in tobacco plants can increase oil production up to 20 times, which means that much greater amounts of biofuel can be produced from the plants.
The researchers discovered two genes that control oil production in tobacco plants: diacyglycerol acytransferase (DGAT) gene and the LEAFY COTYLEDON 2 gene. Modifying the genes makes the the plant’s oil production go into overdrive, with 20 times the standard amount of oil being produced in some cases. On average, genetically modified leaves produce twice the amount of oil as normal leaves.
The Biotechnology Foundation Laboratory‘s research is still in the preliminary stages, but who knows — cigarette smokers may soon be one step closer to inhaling tailpipe fumes.