Read a book by light from power provided by your potato plants? That's the kind of dream Prof. Boris Rubinsky and his team think about and are at the initial stages of working on right now, along with Prof. Haim Rabinowitch, former Hebrew University rector, who invented the cherry tomato.
"A lot of my research is based on electrical power, and that's not accessible in many parts of the world," notes Rubinsky. While solutions like solar energy have been offered by companies like Siemens, the price is still too high.
"So what we're trying to do is to engineer or manipulate plants to produce directly electricity of a low power variety, but of a variety that would be directly accessible to the economically disadvantaged parts of the world. So the same way that the cellular phone may be more expensive than a normal desk phone - but it is accessible because it does not require any infrastructure - we're working now on inventing new low power energy that comes directly from vegetation that can power all the electronics."
In Africa today, some people have to walk two or three hours to a major city to charge their cellphones, says Rubinsky, "and we want to replace that with vegetation. What we have found is that most of the appliances in such places actually require low power. You can sterilize items using those two electrodes we talked about, and not have to keep them in the fridge, running all day long. You can treat cancer with a pulse. You can charge your cellular phone from a battery; you don't need the wall outlet" - once you have the power provided by the vegetation.
"So actually, because we are trying to get into the mind and the spirit of these disadvantaged, far-flung places, we're not trying to impose Western technology... we come up with appropriate solutions, and I think this is going to be a solution one will hear more about very soon."