Nanobionic spinach plants can detect explosives
Nanobionic spinach plants can detect explosives.
Spinach is no longer just a superfood: By embedding leaves with carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone.
When one of these chemicals is present in the groundwater sampled naturally by the plant, carbon nanotubes embedded in the plant leaves emit a fluorescent signal that can be read with an infrared camera.
The paper’s lead author is Min Hao Wong, an MIT graduate student who has started a company called Plantea to further develop this technology.
Environmental monitoring Two years ago, in the first demonstration of plant nanobionics, Strano and former MIT postdoc Juan Pablo Giraldo used nanoparticles to enhance plants’ photosynthesis ability and to turn them into sensors for nitric oxide, a pollutant produced by combustion.
In the new study, the researchers embedded sensors for nitroaromatic compounds into the leaves of spinach plants.
The signal could also be detected with a smartphone by removing the infrared filter that most camera phones have, the researchers say.
"These sensors give real-time information from the plant.
Nitroaromatic detection and infrared communication from wild-type plants using plant nanobionics.
ScienceDaily, 1 November 2016.