Scientists in Sweden have created the world’s first “cyber plant”, an electronically augmented plant that can live off of electricity and grow its own robotic parts.
The scientists at Linkoping University built analogue and digital circuits inside of living flowers using semi-conductive polymers. These polymers were added to water, which once dissolved and aborbed through a rose’s natural vascular system, formed electrical components that resembled wires.
The wires were able to spread evenly through the plant, forming conductive structures up to 10 centimetres long without restricting its ability to carry water and nutrients.
From there scientists were able to create simple transistors, switching the current through the wires on and off, and also used vacuum infiltration to send another polymer into the rose leaf, creating a basic display with pixels partitioned by veins.
The rudimentary display allowed the research group, under the leadership of Professor Magnus Berggren, to change the colour of the leaf to different shades of green.
“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,” Professor Berggren said.
“Everything occurs naturally, and we use the plants’ own very advanced, unique systems.
“As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants. No one’s done this before.”
The research, published in Science Advances, “paves the way for new technologies and tools based on the amalgamation of organic electronics and plants in general”, the report read.
“Distributed conducting wires and electrodes along the stems and roots and in the leaves are preludes to electrochemical fuel cells, charge transport, and storage systems that convert sugar produced from photosynthesis into electricity, in vivo.”