Scientists at Linkoping University in Sweden have successfully developed living electronic roses. According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, researchers implanted electronic circuits inside the plant’s vascular system that carries water and nutrients to its body parts. Scientists led by Professor Magnus Berggren used the vascular system of roses to create analog and digital electronics circuits inside the living plant.
Researchers can now control chemical pathways
They also demonstrated digital logic, wires, and display elements placed inside the plants. Berggren expressed confidence that the method could be used to develop new tools in plant science and new applications for organic electronics. By combining electric signals with the plant’s chemical processes, scientists could control chemical pathways inside plants. It would allow them to regulate plant growth and tap into photosynthesis to generate power. However, that is still years away.
Ove Nilsson, the co-author of the study, said previously they didn’t have the necessary tools to measure the concentration of different molecules in plants. But now they can influence the concentration of specific molecules to regulate plant growth. Scientists applied an electrical current to change the hue of the rose’s leaves. However, it wasn’t all easy. They spent two years trying to introduce conductive polymers through rose stems.
Roses easily take in PEDOT-S polymer
Researchers dissolved polymers in water, then cut stems in the water to see whether the polymer could be picked up into the plant’s xylem. They tried dozens of polymers, but most of them killed the plant. They finally tasted success with a polymer called PEDOT-S. When researchers placed the cut stems of roses in PEDOT-S solution, the stems absorbed it. Living plants were also able to absorb the solution through their root systems, though a bit slowly.
The polymer created a thin film inside xylem channels, forming a conductive wire as long as 10cm. The xylem was still able to transport water and nutrients normally. Next, they infused another PEDOT variant along with a nanocellulose into the rose’ leaves. The two elements together created electrochemical cells that allowed them to change the hue of the leaf by applying the electric current.