Circuits in Roses?

Yes, scientists at the University of Linköping have made a revolutionary breakthrough in growing electric wires within a living plant, a rose. It’s kind of a cyborg plant, a living rose plant with microscopic circuit interweaves through its vascular system.

A team led by Professor Magnus Berggren, described several possible applications in the future. It could one day make it possible to regulate plant growth and release of hormones.

The team has been actually trying to create electronic plants for about a decade. They focused on rose bushes because of its distinct features. It has all the elements of a tree such as bark, leaves, petioles and a peculiar root structure.

But the journey was not as smooth as it was anticipated; every electronic element the team tried seemed to have flaws. Some released toxins, poisoning the plant. Others clogged the xylem, the tissue responsible for water transport inside the plant. After trying with different materials, they came up with an answer, an organic polymer poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) called PEDOT – S:H, which has electric conductivity when hydrated. The team placed the stems of the rose in the solution and after a day or two, the team peeled the outer layer of the rose bark, exposing miniature “wires” of organic polymer that have formed in the stem. The plant absorbs the solution, creating the “wires” within the xylem.

The team hopes to combine a self- assembling series of sensors, which they have also created to make a neuronal system to regulate the physiology of the plant. The team has managed to make electrical network up to 20 cm long, using slightly different technique.

“Now we can really start talking about ‘power plants’ — we can place sensors in plants and use the energy formed in the chlorophyll, produce green antennas or produce new materials. Everything occurs naturally, and we use the plants’ own very advanced, unique systems,” Berggren said.

Berggren also said that the integrated network of sensors can one day be used to regulate the overall behaviour of the plant, to protect and increase productivity when the conditions are right.

Country of Origin: Sweden

Year: 2015


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