Scientists Create Cyborg Roses that Can Change Color

Monday, 23 November 2015 - 1:56PM
Robotics
Monday, 23 November 2015 - 1:56PM
Scientists Create Cyborg Roses that Can Change Color
Cyborgism is usually discussed in the context of combining technology with human biology, but a less frightening version has just been accomplished, as researchers at Linkoping Unversity have just managed to develop flowers with electronic circuitry fused with their vascular systems. Although many attempts have been made to augment plants with electronics, this marks the first time electronic circuits have been manufactured inside living plants. 

In new research published in Science Advances, the researchers explain that they introduced a conductive polymer called PEDOT-S into the rose's vascular system by having the plants absorb it like nutrients in water. Then, once the polymer was inside the flower's xylem, it self-assembled into conducting wires up to 10cm long in the xylem channels. By combining the wires with the naturally occurring electrolytes in the xylem, the researchers were able to create an electrochemical transistor, which converts ionic signals from the flower into electronic output. The researchers also infused another version of PEDOT into the leaves, which can change color when voltage is applied. 

Opening quote
""As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants. No one's done this before," lead researcher Magnus Berggren said in a statement. "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. Everything occurs naturally, and we use the plants' own very advanced, unique systems."
Closing quote

The fact that the roses can change color likely has no practical application, but the conversion of biological signals into electric signals definitely does. If the technology is further developed, it could allow plants to essentially monitor themselves and let farmers know when there's a problem in their growth. This could serve as a replacement for many modifications that require genetic engineering, and if we can figure out a way to ensure that the wires aren't assembled in the edible parts of the flowers, could lead to much more resilient crops.
Science
Technology
Robotics

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