After scientists have developed a high-tech system to communicate with plants, “robot plants”
Researchers in Singapore have connected plants to electrodes that can monitor the weak electrical pulses naturally emitted by green leaves.
Scientists used this technology to trigger the Venus flytrap, which can be closed by pressing a button on the smartphone app.
Then, they fixed one of the jaws of the pliers to the robotic arm, ready to pick up a half-millimeter thick metal wire and grab a small falling object.
The technology is still in its infancy, but researchers believe that it can eventually be used to build advanced “plant-based robots” that can pick up many fragile objects that are too subtle for a rigid robotic arm.
Chen Xiaodong, the lead author of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) study, told AFP: “These natural robots can be connected with other artificial robots to create hybrid systems.”
There are still challenges to overcome. Scientists can stimulate the jaws of flytraps to close suddenly, but cannot reopen them-this process naturally takes 10 hours or more.
The system can also pick up signals from plants, thereby increasing the probability that farmers can spot problems with their crops at an early stage.
“By monitoring the electrical signals of the factory, we may be able to detect possible distress signals and abnormal situations,” Chen said.
“Farmers may even know when the disease occurs before the crop shows complete symptoms.”
Researchers believe that this technique may be particularly useful as crops face increasing threats from climate change.
Scientists have long known that the electrical signals emitted by plants are very weak, but their uneven and waxy surface makes it difficult to install sensors effectively.
NTU researchers have developed a membrane-like flexible electrode that fits closely on the surface of the plant and can detect signals more accurately.
They are connected using a “thermal gel”, which is liquid at low temperatures but becomes a gel at room temperature.
They are the latest results of exchange research with plants.
In 2016, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned spinach leaves into sensors that can send email alerts to scientists when they detect explosive substances in groundwater.
The research team has embedded carbon nanotubes, which will signal when nitroaromatic compounds are detected in the roots of the plant. Nitroaromatic compounds are usually found in explosives. Then, the infrared camera reads the signal, and the infrared camera sends the information to the scientist.
Scientists have developed equipment that uses electrical signals to communicate with plants
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