The competition in the rose market just got a lot more high-tech.
A recent report on Gizmodo describes the development of a “cyborg flower” that involves turning a living rose into an electronic circuit.
The report states: “Think about smart plants that can sense and display environmental changes, or crops whose growth can be regulated at the flick of a switch. Or plant-based fuel cells that convert the photosynthetic sugars into electricity.”
The very first electronic plant, developed by researchers at Linköping University in Sweden and described in more detail in Science Advances, is a step toward any one of those applications and many more.
It’s a bit heavy in tech-speak, but this is how Gizmodo describes the development of the cyborg rose:
“First, the researchers introduce a synthetic polymer called PEDOT-S into the rose through its stem. The plant sucks up the polymer using the same vascular system (xylem) that transports water. Once inside xylem channels, the polymer self-assembles into a ‘wire’ that conducts electrical signals, while still allowing water and nutrients to move around. By connecting these wires with naturally occurring electrolytes in the plant’s tissue, researchers are able to create an electrochemical transistor, as well as a digital logic gate, a basic component of computer systems.”
The researchers also introduced a variant of PEDOT-S into the leaves, where it forms pixels — groups of electrochemical cells separated by leaf veins. When a voltage is applied, these pixels change color like a display.
The first cyborg plant is the culmination of two decades of work, according to the report. The researchers first tried to hack electronics into trees in the ‘90s, but funding fell through.
“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,” says the study’s lead author, Magnus Berggren.