In the 21st century, even our plants are becoming bionic, thanks to groundbreaking new research that has successfully created the world’s first cyborg rose. That’s right — the favorite flower of Valentine’s Day has been poked, prodded, and practically reinvented to play host to the electronic circuits that are grown inside them, making it possible for these flora to transmit energy, detect environmental changes, and even have their growth regulated by the flip of a switch.
As per a study published Friday in Science Advances, researchers “report analog and digital organic electronic circuits and devices manufactured in living plants.” Scientists “fed” a rose a synthetic polymer known as PEDOT-S, allowing the plant to draw the polymer up through its stem in the same way that it brings up water — using its xylem channels.
Then, the ingenious little polymer assembled itself into a “wire” of sorts that actually allows electrical signals to pass through it without disturbing the rest of the rose’s life functions (such as getting water and nutrients to the right places). And when the wire created by PEDOT-S was connected with the natural electrolytes found in plant tissue, researchers were able to create an electro-chemical transistor and a digital logic gate, which forms the base of computer systems.
“With integrated and distributed electronics in plants, one can envisage a range of applications,” write the authors. Such applications include “precision recording and regulation of physiology, energy harvesting from photosynthesis, and alternatives to genetic modification for plant optimization.” Not found on the list of uses, fortunately, is a plant revolution to end the human race.
Magnus Berggren, who led the team of researchers, told Motherboard he was “basically breathless” when he saw what they’d accomplished. And moving forward, the scientist wants to find ways to convert solar energy into chemical energy and then into stored electrical energy — a whole lot for just one little rose.
Ultimately, Berggren says, this bionic rose could pave the way in harvesting energy from plants without having to kill them. And isn’t that idea just as sweet as a rose?
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