Plants are the factory of oxygens. They are also the providers of many life-supporting items for us and the world we live. A research team of MIT has now decided to make plants more useful. The team has planned to insert nanomaterials in plants. This technique will allow the plants to detect and monitor pollutants from the surroundings. The team has already modified plants which can detect the gas nitric oxide!
“Plants are very attractive as a technology platform,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and leader of the MIT research team. “They repair themselves, they’re environmentally stable outside, they survive in harsh environments, and they provide their own power source and water distribution.” “Plants are very good analytical chemists,” Strano added.
But, how can plants actually find bombs?
The answer is a ‘sensor’. A sensor is used everywhere; the automatic door at a grocery store, a drone following you from above, and a fingerprint scanner on your phone are just a few examples.
To make a plant work as a bomb-sniffer, MIT researchers installed a nanomaterial in spinach! Yes, the green leafy superfood that you eat as a salad. To detect a harmful chemical, a spinach would need to absorb water from a bomb or land mine site. Usually, there would be a little amount of toxic chemical in the water. When the water spreads out in the plant’s cell, the sensors will start to emit a fluorescent light signal which can be detected by an infrared camera.
Though researchers have tested the biomaterials in Spinach, it is possible to insert a nanomaterial in any plants, making them detect an explosive very quickly!