Photo credit: Unilad
This isn’t a joke, MIT engineers managed to develop a method to transform living spinach plants into self-powered pre-concentrators / autosamplers of analytes in ambient groundwater and as infrared communication platforms that can send information to a smartphone. In other words, the team used nanotechnology to create spinach plants capable of sending emails when they detect explosives, and in the future, warnings about pollution or climate change. Read more for a news report and additional information.
These plants don’t need an external mouse or keyboard, as they rely instead on carbon nanotubes embedded within their leaves that emit a fluorescent signal detectable by infrared cameras. When the cameras detect a change, a device sends an email to researchers.
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Plants are very environmentally responsive. They know that there is going to be a drought long before we do. They can detect small changes in the properties of soil and water potential. If we tap into those chemical signalling pathways, there is a wealth of information to access,” said Professor Michael Strano, who led the research.