Computer Systems In Cyborg Rose Garden: Swedish Scientists Make Breakthrough


Further to making rose plants absorb a polymer solution in making them conductive way back in 2015, scientists from Sweden's Linköping University have made a new breakthrough by using a new fluid that polymerizes inside the plants, creating conductive threads in all parts for hiking conductivity and performing as supercapacitors.

The new conductive solution ETE-S fills the xylem or veins of the rose, forming wires in stems, leaves, and petals. Thanks to the innovation, the prospect of making a biological computer network in a garden of cyborg plants is turning into a reality.

The current experiment marks a success over the basic version the team tried in 2015 when a fluid PEDOT was applied for embedding in the rose plant producing partial results.

Thanks to the wider dispersion of ETE-S across the vascular tissues, the solidified wires boost more conductivity than in previous experiments.

It further allows making the network of wires a fully functioning electronic device by placing several supercapacitors to store large amounts of electrical energy in the stem.

The e-Plant was run through repeated charge cycles without any loss of efficiency.

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"We have been able to charge the rose repeatedly, for hundreds of times without any loss of the performance of the device," said lead author Eleni Stavrinidou, Assistant Professor at Linköping University's Laboratory of Organic Electronics.

She said the energy storage capacity was of the same magnitude as in supercapacitors.

According to computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky, who is also working on experiments related to voltage applications in lettuce seedlings, this is a prelude to the future when vegetable computers can be grown in gardens.

Building Sensors And Circuits

The experiment shows that similar to the formation of conventional capacitors or transistors in the electronic system within computers, e-Plants can also form them in a biotechnological hybrid and build new sensors and circuitry.

Such organically growing circuitry can transform the world in ways not imagined before. In the next step, the team will be infusing ETE-S in a living rose to see if it stays alive. If that succeeds, then the future of computers growing in the backyard will be no fiction.

The experiment showed that augmented electronic functionality in the vascular system of a plant can be enhanced by leveraging the plant's internal physiology as templates of vivo organic electronic devices and circuits with progression toward device making.

The success of the research came in the synthesis of the conjugated oligomer that was capable of forming longer polymers in all parts of the rose plant's xylem.

Regulation Of Growth In Plants

In 2015, team member Professor Magnus Berggren's research had a breakthrough in growing living roses with electronic circuits in the vascular systems.

"Previously, we had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants," said Ove Nilsson, co-author of the paper and professor of plant reproduction biology at Umeå University.

For the team, introducing the best conductive polymer into the plant's system was a challenge. After many trials, they reached success with a polymer called PEDOT-S:H which the rose stems readily absorbed when dipped into the solution.

Commenting on the gains ahead, Berggren said they will come handy in many applications such as placing sensors in plants and even producing new materials.

"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.

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