The ‘cyborg’ rose blooms

You would have seen cyborgs in movies – creatures that have the features of man as well as machine – but did you ever imagine that the first cyborgs on earth would actually be plants? That too, the beautiful rose? Researchers at Linköping University in Sweden have managed to do just that by combining electronics with living plants to create such ‘cyborgs.’ Their research was recently published in the research journal ‘Science Advances.’
What did they do?
Cut roses were placed in a vessel containing water and dissolved chemicals that were capable of carrying an electric current. The chemicals were absorbed into the stem of the rose through the xylem, a tube- like plant part that carries water from the root to the stem and leaves. Inside the xylem, these chemicals formed a thin film before finally forming thin wires as long as 10 centimetres. The xylem continued to absorb water normally in spite of the presence of the wire.
Next, the researchers sent a different chemical to the rose’s leaves. Once the leaves were filled with the new material which was also capable of carrying an electric current, they were tested to see whether they could hold the current for a period of time and also to see what changes electricity would bring to the plant. The researchers discovered that plants were capable of holding an electric charge for a length of time. Plus they were also able to change the colour of leaves by passing an electric current through the new chemical that filled the leaf.
The good news was that neither of these steps harmed the rose in any way.
How will this technology be used?
The new technology could be put to use to check and regulate the growth of plants – this may give us greater control over what happens to the plant. Plus, photosynthesis – the process through which green plants in the presence of sunlight make food – could be used to generate energy for human use. Of course we may be years away from actually using such technology, but that is definitely the way we are headed.