This post originally appeared on hifipublic.com
We are in the era of all things ‘smart’ – starting from your cell phones, to your cars and even your home. But we perhaps didn’t anticipate a living smart plant. Yes, I’m not kidding, this has actually happened! A group of scientists have recently announced that they have successfully transformed living roses into electronic circuits, or in other words, cyborg flowers!
Now, don’t get all worked up into thinking that these plants will eventually take over you and all of humanity. What these will essentially let you do is that they will be able to sense and display environmental changes, the growth of crops can be regulated with the flick of a switch or plant-based fuel cells will be able to convert photosynthetic sugars into electricity.
Researchers at the Linkoping University in Sweden have created the world’s first electronic plant and it aims to be a stepping stone towards achieving the mentioned applications.
In a statement, Magnus Berggren, the study lead author of the research said “As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants. No one’s done this before.”
So how does this work? Here’s the science behind it:
First, the researchers introduce a synthetic polymer called PEDOT-S into the rose through its stem. The plant sucks up the polymer using the same vascular system (xylem) that transports water. Once inside xylem channels, the polymer self-assembles into a ‘wire’ that conducts electrical signals, while still allowing water and nutrients to move around. By connecting these wires with naturally-occurring electrolytes in the plant’s tissue, the researchers are able to create an electrochemical transistor, as well as a digital logic gate, a basic component of computer systems. The researchers also introduced a variant of PEDOT-S into the leaves, where it forms ‘pixels’; groups of electrochemical cells separated by leaf veins. When a voltage is applied, these pixels change color like a display.
The cyborg plant did not come into being as a product that was just recently thought of. Researchers worked on this project for over two decades but due to a lack of funding, they could not complete their research. However, even till now it seems like only a tiny fraction of what can be attained through this technology has been revealed.
“Now we can really start talking about ‘power plants’ – we can place sensors in plants and use the energy formed in the chlorophyll, produce green antennas or produce new materials” said Berggren. “Everything occurs naturally and we use the plants’ own very advanced, unique systems.”
The potential of this initiative seems mind boggling and who knows with further advancements in technology, this could perhaps be something we would see in the mainstream. Until then, you can simply look at the beauty that is in a rose and get enchanted by its mesmerizing smell!