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Looking to tobacco plants for biofuel

This is Science Today. When it comes to producing biofuels from plants, most people think about ethanol from corn or even switchgrass. But tobacco plants ... not-so-much. Yet that is exactly what a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are working on. The FOLIUM project, funded by the Department of Energy, focuses on advanced technologies that will revolutionize how we generate, store and utilize energy. In this case, researchers are looking to convert carbon dioxide and carbon into biofuels directly.  So, how do tobacco plants come in?

Lemauex:       We chose tobacco for several reasons; one is it makes a lot of mass.  So, if you want to extract oil then the more leaf biomass you have the better. Another advantage of tobacco is that it will just continue to make different generations and you can come in and harvest it many times a year.

Narrator:        Plant biologist Peggy Lemauex of UC Berkeley adds that their strategy is to create biofuels directly in the plant leaves using processes that already occur in certain algae and cyanobacteria. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.