A team of biologists from the Laboratory for Organic Electronics at Linköping University in Sweden have grown “cybernetic” plants – roses with electronic circuitry grown into its leaves.While the team is only able to change the colour hue of the current crop of roses, it’s the first step in creating cyborg plants that could be electronically monitored for growth, and even presents the possibility of harnessing the energy generated by photosynthesis.
Yep. If further studies prove successful, we could feasibly grow power stations. Or rather, professor Magnus Berggren and his team could. We’d just sit there feeling impressed and inadequate.
The experiment, published in Science Advances, saw the team introduce conductive polymers into the plant’s systems – a liquid solution of something called PEDOT-S:H that, when spread throughout the natural structure of leaves, roots and vascular system of the plant, would form internal ‘circuits’.
The experiment hit several snags of the polymer killing several plants, before one solution was absorbed successfully, forming a 10cm ‘wire’ inside the plant.
“Previously, we had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants,” said co-author Ove Nilsson. “Now we’ll be able to influence the concentration of the various substances in the plant that regulate growth and development. Here, I see great possibilities for learning more.”
Another successful test saw the team introduce tiny 3D cellulose structures inside rose leaves, forming electrochemical sponges which the team could then pass electric currents through.
“Now we can really start talking about ‘power plants'”, said Berggren. “We can place sensors in plants and use the energy formed in the chlorophyll, produce green antennas or produce new materials. Everything occurs naturally, and we use the plants’ own very advanced, unique systems.”
Power plants. Good one, Berggren