Swedish scientists create the world's first cyborg rose

Cyborg Rose

Researchers develop roses equipped with biocompatible electronics according to a report from New Scientist, the experiment opens the door for electronics that can plug into plants.

Scientists have created the world's first electronically augmented plant, building analogue and digital circuits inside living flowers using semi-conductive polymers. The plant sucks up the polymer using the same vascular system (xylem) that transports water.

These fibers form a 3-D structure similar to a sponge, with small cavities, which are then filled with the polymer. Electrochemical cells are thus formed with a number of pixels, partitioned by the veins. Another rose can change color when a voltage is applied to it.

"The roots, stems, leaves, and vascular circuitry of higher plants are responsible for conveying the chemical signals that regulate growth and functions".

With the help of the channels that distribute water and nutrients in plants, the research group at the Laboratory for Organic Electronics, under the leadership of Professor Magnus Berggren, has built the key components of electronic circuits. The Swedish researchers used electronic signals to tap into the plant's chemical processes, making way for a merger that allowed the team to interact with the plant's chemical pathways and enable them to control the growth regulators, photosynthesis-based fuel cells and other devices that play roles in the plant's internal functions.

"Previously, we had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants", study co-author Ove Nilsson.

Researchers at the university had been working on embedding electronics into plants for more than 20 years already, the first attempt of which was in 1990, when they tried but failed to make trees accept electronic circuitry.

"It seems as if the polymers we use had been created for their function", Mr. Gabrielsson states. "Everything occurs naturally, and we use the plants' own very advanced, unique systems".

"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", Berggren said.

The idea of combining electronics and plants sounds like something you might see in a far-flung corner of Glastonbury festival, but it's actually been an area of research since the 1990s.