An achilles heel for bionic plants?

Cool news on the renewable energy front from  Joseph Torella and colleagues published in a recent PNAS.

The upshot: use photovolatic cells to provide electicity to a cobalt-phosphate catalyst that splits water into O’s and H’s, then feed those split-off H’s to an engineered soil bacteria, Ralstonia eutropha, to generate isopropanol (C2H80). Its a closed system–a bionic leaf about as efficient in generating CHOs as corn (without all those Nitrogen inputs).

Now as an ecologist, my thought is that these engineers better spend a lot of time generating new variants of Ralstonia. All that genomically identical biomass in all those bionic leaves across the land is going to be a rewarding target for the first virus that evolves a hankering for pampered Ralstonia.  I wonder if the cellulosic bioenergy folks are running into similar problems?

“We think we can do better than plants”: New “bionic leaf” makes fuel from sunlight – Salon.com.

%d bloggers like this: