Under a program called PETRO Plants Engineered To Replace Oil Yuan and his colleagues hope to create a tobacco plant that produces and stores high levels of terpene the fuel derivative of terpenoid and they plan to do it fast.
"It's a very quick turnaround to make a plant in 18 months that will yield 2 percent of its dry weight in terpene, while improving the plant's ability to both store and release the fuel," Yuan said. "If we can do that, then the next phase is to increase the yield to 20 percent and transfer the technology to the reed."
Achieving the 20 percent yield in just three years from the start of the research, he said, is what could have a huge impact on the nation's energy supplies. The giant reed, he believes, could be made to store enough fuel to make the technology economically feasible while not competing with the nation's cropland.
He envisions an industry in which the reeds would be grown for fuel that could simply be "squeezed out" in almost ready-to-use form.
"We are working on a way to use photosynthesis to produce fuel. So instead of going to oil fields, which are not sustainable, not only can we solve our problem of energy dependence and energy security, but also we will provide a solution for sustainable fuel production," Yuan said. "And it will be renewable for many years to come."
|Contact: Kathleen Phillips|
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications