Researchers from Sweden have successfully grown electronics inside plants.
The group at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics used the vascular system of a rose to grow an electrochemical transistor that converts ionic signals to electronic output.
It was found that a polymer called PEDOT-S would assemble itself inside the xylem, which are the naturally occurring water transportation channels within the plant, into long ‘wires’ that could conduct electrical energy.
By combining these wires with the electrolyte surrounding the channels, the transistor was created.
The researchers demonstrated that the xylem transistors could act as digital logic gates.
It was also found that the electronics that were developed inside the plants did not disrupt the natural transport of water nutrients throughout it.
Professor Magnus Berggren, team leader on the project, believes the technology could be used to develop applications for energy, environmental sustainability and new ways of interacting with plants.
“As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants. No one’s done this before,” he said.
“Now we can really start talking about ‘power plants’ – we can place sensors in plants and use the energy formed in the chlorophyll, produce green antennas or produce new materials.
“Everything occurs naturally and we use the plants’ own very advanced, unique systems.”
It is believed that augmenting plants with electronic functionality would make it possible to combine electric signals with their own chemical processes.
Controlling and interfacing with chemical pathways in plants could pave the way to photosynthesis-based fuel cells, sensors and growth regulators, as well as devices that modulate the internal functions of organic lifeforms.
“Previously, we had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants. Now we’ll be able to influence the concentration of the various substances in the plant that regulate growth and development. Here, I see great possibilities for learning more,” says Ove Nilsson, another professor working on the project.