Plants feed us and provide the fabrics that help protect us from the elements, but that's not all they can do.
When's the last time you thanked a bush for all the things it does to keep you safe and warm? Fossil fuels have dominated the manufacturing and energy industries for so long, it's easy to forget that plants can be just as versatile, and usually much cleaner.
1. Make Plastics
Gizmag reports that researchers at the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) are are engineering plants to produce chemicals needed for plastics that have traditionally come from fossil fuels. The discovery of the genes that code for the enzymes responsible for producing these FAs encouraged researchers to explore ways of expressing these genes. "The key to the research is getting plants to produce higher yields of particular fatty acids (FAs) in their seeds. Of interest is the group of omega-7 FAs which are used in the production of plastics," writes Grant Banks.
2. Clean The Air
According to Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering at UConn, one of the most exciting things about hemp is that it grows "like a weed", even in infertile soils. This would allow industrial hemp to be grown for biofuel production without taking up primary crop lands.
And hemp isn't the only alternative plant that's being considered as a future source of energy. Chilean entrepreneur Mario Llanis was inspired by the cactus-riddled desert of his native country, and is working on a way to turn the versatile pear cactus into a bio-energy source that could change the industry forever.
Image Credit: Beth Buczynski