Switzerland – A new bionic rose was created at Linköping University. Scientists infiltrated a plant with electronic plant-compatible materials and conductive polymers which created a digital circuit that functioned through its stem. They also experimented with other plants and made some leafs change its original color when voltage was applied.

The co-author of the study, Magnus Berggren, who is an organic electronics researcher at Linköping University in Sweden, said that if they combined the sensors with delivery devices they could make a neuronal system to record, sense and regulate the physiology of the plant. The implants could also regulate when flowers bloom to avoid unpredicted frosts. They could also regulate the segregation of hormones to prevent a drought.

The study was recognized for providing a new alternative to the manipulation of flower’s DNA, using electronic components and parts could be a way to engineer plants without modifying their DNA. Photo: picsonica.com

A similar experiment was done last year by Michael Strano, a chemical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Mr. Strano said that plants could be hacked to boost their photosynthesis. The engineer put some nanotubes into spinach chloroplasts that made the plant absorb light that was not usually absorbed by normal chloroplasts.

Scientists from different universities said they liked the experiment, however they are not sure of the capabilities that it could reach. Zhenan Bao, from Stanford University said it seemed interesting, but she was not sure about what the implications involving the experiment were. On the other hand, Christopher Bettinger, a biomedical engineer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh said the work was cool, fun and thought-provoking.

During the first researches Berggren and his team used plant cuttings that allowed the leaves to change its color. Months later, this plants were still alive and the leaves are intact. The scientist said plants of the future will combine both genetic engineering and electrical sensors that could help control flowering time according to weather conditions.

It is known that plants depend on hormones and ionic signals movements to make certain functions. It has been a challenge for scientists to modify their internal system. Swedish researchers said they previously had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants. Now, they will be able to influence the concentration of substances in order to regulate the development of some plants.

“If we combine the sensors with delivery devices, we could make a neuronal system to record and sense and regulate the physiology of the plant. We can refine materials in plants to become semiconductors and conductors, and put them back in plants to become devices,” Berggren said.

Source: Tech Times