‘Electronic’ plants to herald new era for scientists
London: A team of Swedish researchers, by using living roses, has created analogue and digital electronic circuits inside living plants, calling them “electronic plants”.
The experiment demonstrates wires, digital logic and displays elements — fabricated inside the plants — that could develop new applications for organic electronics and new tools in plant science.
The group at Linkoping University in Sweden, under the leadership of professor Magnus Berggren, used the vascular system of living roses to build key components of electronic circuits.
Previously, scientists had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants.
“Now we will 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,” noted Ove Nilsson, professor of plant reproduction biology.
Plants are complex organisms that rely on the transport of ionic signals and hormones to perform necessary functions.
However, plants operate on a much slower time scale making interacting with and studying plants difficult.
Controlling and interfacing with chemical pathways in plants could pave the way to photosynthesis-based fuel cells, sensors and growth regulators, and devices that modulate the internal functions of plants.
These results are early steps to merge the diverse fields of organic electronics and plant science.
The aim is to develop applications for energy, environmental sustainability and new ways of interacting with plants.
Professor Berggren envisions the potential for an entirely new field of research. “As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants. No one’s done this before,” he stated.
“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,” he concluded in a paper featured in the journal Science Advances.