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World’s First Cyborg Plant: A Rose Embedded With Electronic Circuits

The vascular system of roses has been used to construct electronic circuits by scientists from the Linköping University in Sweden. The findings are published in Science Advances.

A rose with embedded electronic circuits in its xylem. Photo credits: Linköping University.

A rose with embedded electronic circuits in its xylem. Photo credits: Linköping University.

Roses might just have another use – the birthplace of analogue and digital electronic circuits.

Researchers from Linköping University put together different electrical components (wires, and digital logic, amongst others) into the flowers by making use of a ‘wire’ polymer called PEDOT-S that also allows water and nutrients to travel through the plant.

Of the different trials of the scientists, PEDOT-S was the only material that adhered itself into xylem vessels of roses with success, while not interfering with the movement of essential chemicals of the plants. It travelled through the tubes and formed into conducting wires. The polymer was merged with electrolytes found in the vicinity of the xylem, thereby fashioning an electrochemical transistor generating electronic output.

Thereafter, another form of the polymer was injected into the roses, such that an “organic pixel display” was created in their leaves. Upon application of a voltage, the polymer and ions interacted, thereby causing leaf colour changes.

The purpose of embedding electronics into living plants is to delve deeper into the chemical pathways that govern their physiology. It is also hoped that this endeavour can help scientists to manipulate the processes occurring in the insides of plants.

One of the authors, biologist Ove Nilsson, explains in a statement reported by eurekalert.org that their findings will help them control the concentration of the molecules influencing plant growth and development.

The findings are a good representation of how the fields of plant physiology and organic electronics could be combined to pave the way for other applications involving fuel cells fuelled by photosynthesis, or sensors embedded in plants allowing the harvest of its energy.

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