It would appear the world is one step closer to the long theorized event known as “the singularity,” a hypothesized time in which man and technology will no longer exists as separate entities, with recent news from Sweden’s Linköping University. Researchers at the university have for the first time managed to merge electronic circuitry with the natural vascular system of living plants.
The study has accomplished something that, according to a Linköping University press release, has never been done before. According to the statement, the university is the first to publish research results in the field of plant-based electronics.
The momentous results were achieved at Linköping University’s Laboratory of Organic Electronics (LOE), as part of an ongoing research effort examining the potential behind applying electronic systems to plants, which began in the 1990s. The specific research that led to this most recent breakthrough was funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and began in 2012.
The study was published Friday in the scientific journal Science Advances, and it involved the augmentation of a rose’s photosynthetic process through the use of a polymer solution with the ability to conduct electricity known as PEDOT. The roses received the solution via a bath of PEDOT derivatives, which allowed the solution to be soaked into the tissue of the flowers, with the results then recorded.
After a trail and error process, the scientists were able to find the derivative that best delivered the solution to the plants. The derivative, called PEDOT-S:H, interacted with the roses and gave birth to small formations of wires within the vascular tissue of the flowers, which held electronic charges.
Once the PEDOT solution made its home in the vascular tissue mostly localized to the stem, the next step was to bring it into the leaves. For this, researchers used vacuum technology and the application of a different derivative, PEDOT:PSS-NFC. This allowed the electrically conductive material to fill the leaves as well.
This step was followed by a colour test in which scientists evaluated whether the roses’ leaves could change colour electronically, similar to the way the pedal of a white flower will change colour if its stem is placed in coloured water . The test was successful, and also lead to the conclusion that plants are not only capable of carrying an electrical charge, but they carry it with a fairly high degree of stability.
Furthermore, the process appears to have no harmful effects on the roses. Scientists observed them living just as long as they normally would have in a completely natural state, dying out after a few days.
The team of researchers is, understandably, very excited about not only the breakthrough in plant-based technology itself, but also what it could mean for the future as big discoveries regarding how plants store and transfer energy are now just around the corner. With talk of the possibility of implanting sensors in plants to produce natural, green antennas, or even new material, a new world in science has truly been open–a new world in which science works with the natural world as it was always meant to.