Researchers in Sweden have made a huge breakthrough; they have developed the world's first electronic plants.
It seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but it’s as real as day. Researchers from Linkoping University in Sweden have made a startling breakthrough by combining aspects of the natural world with modern engineering. That’s right; according to a report from Gizmodo, researchers have created the world’s first cyborg plants.
Some have raised concerns about the possibility of an all-powerful robotic plants that would one day take over the world, but the project’s actual implications are quite impressive. Researchers hope that their work could lead to “smart” plants that can detect and respond to environmental changes, as well as crops whose growth could be electronically regulated.
The breakthrough could also lead to plant-based fuel cells that mimic a plant’s ability to turn sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy.
According to the study’s lead author, Magnus Berggren, “As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants. No one’s done this before.”
The scientists implanted a synthetic polymer called PEDOT-S into a rose through its main stem. As the plant absorbs the polymer through its vascular system called the xylem, it creates a wire of sorts that is able to conduct electricity without impeding the flow of water and other nutrients throughout the plant.
When these wires are connected with naturally occurring electrolytes, researchers found that they were able to create an electrochemical transistor and a digital logic gate; both of which are key components of computers.
They also implanted a variation of PEDOT-S into plants’ leaves, which allowed them to form “pixels.” These pixels were actually groups of electrochemical cells partitioned by the leaf’s veins. They changed color like a display screen when a charge was applied.
Cyborg plants have been a long time in the making. Researchers first began trying to make electronic plants in the 90s, but this recent breakthrough is the first major discovery in the field. A press release from Science Advances describing the study can be found here.