Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower are famed for fighting cancer. Their latest feat: Researchers say adding their genes to another family member, rapeseed, could yield a seed oil high in erucic acid that could be used in forming superstrong plastics and high-performance lubricants. Today's rapeseed oil yields at best 66% erucic acid, which makes it expensive to purify. Adding genes from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli could result in oils with more than 90% erucic acid. Norman Sonntag, a Dallas consultant on oil-based chemicals, says there are more than 1,000 patented uses for high-erucic-acid oils and their derivatives.
The research was conducted by the National Research Council of Canada's Plant Biotechnology Institute, working with the universities of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Researchers there say that future products might include a high-temperature lubricant, an agent to keep plastic film from sticking to itself, and a tough, nylon-based plastic that might be used for car parts.