Bionic Plants CreatedCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: March 17, 2014 12:53PM
As intelligent and knowledgeable as humanity may believe itself to be, Nature still has many secrets and advantages over us. One example of this is photosynthesis, as plants are much better at capturing the energy of the Sun than our technologies. Naturally then, we are trying to utilize parts of plants to improve our technologies, but now researchers at MIT have gone the other way and used some of our technologies to improve plants.
Chloroplasts are the organelles in a plant cell responsible for photosynthesis, and for some time we have been extracting them, hoping to find some way to apply them to our solar energy systems. The problem is that chloroplasts do not survive long outside of a plant, though we can extend that life by adding nanoparticles of a strong antioxidant. The researchers delivered these nanoparticles using a new technique called lipid exchange envelope penetration (LEEP) and then used the same technique to add semiconducting nanotubes. Normally plants only absorb about a tenth of the spectrum of light available to them, but these nanotubes were able to increase that amount, by acting as artificial antennae.
After seeing an improvement in the chloroplasts, the researchers moved to living plants and added nanotubes there, successfully boosting electron flow by about 30%. The hope is to eventually use bionic plants as self-powered sensors that could detect chemicals such as pesticides, poisons, and even explosives.