Cyborg roses could become the first “smart” plant.
Scientists at Linköping University in Sweden created the first electronic rose in a lab, they reported Nov. 20 in the journal Science Advances.
This technology could create plants that light up to signal what they need, though the researchers admit that’s a bit far off.
To make their cyborg rose, the researchers cut a garden rose, and submerged it for a few days in water that contained a chemical that can conduct electricity (a kind of polymer called PEDOT for short). The rose soaked up the water and the polymer, which formed very thin wires in the vascular system of the plant.
When the researchers connected the flowers to gold probes, they formed complete transistors and circuits, potentially giving the scientists the ability to manipulate their “flower power.”
“There was a moment during the screening when Eleni [the lead author] showed us all these beautiful wires,” study co-author Magnus Berggren told Live Science. “When I saw those, I immediately understood it was possible to make electronic circuits.”
They also introduced PEDOT into rose leaves, which could then light up and change colours like an electronic display. The researchers think this might one day create plants that could show their nitrogen levels, for instance, essentially telling their farmers what they need.
This GIF shows the very subtle change in colours on the leaves filled with PEDOT polymer:
The researchers say these electronic plants could be sent signals telling them when to bloom, say, if humans know a drought or frost is coming.
But outside experts predict these applications are far off.
“It seems cool, but I am not sure exactly what the implication is,” Zhenan Bao, who wasn’t involved in the research and works with organic electronics at Stanford University, told Nature News. “But that is science and scientific curiosity, I guess.”
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