Bionic Plants From MIT Are Supercharged Energy Producers Of The Future

Plants are set to become way more useful than ever before, thanks to the research work done by MIT. It has now been brought to light that enhancing the energy production in plants is very much possible. By augmenting nanomaterials in plants, MIT researchers have come up with what are called "plant nanobionics" or bionic plants that can capture 30% more light energy and thus become super-charged energy producers. All this has been done by embedding carbon nanotubes in the chloroplast - the plant organ responsible for photosynthesis. Well, that's not it. By using a new kind of carbon nanotube, these bionic plants have been made to detect and monitor environmental pollutants such as the nitric oxide gas and even pesticides or fungal infections.

The researchers have a vision of developing plants that can act as self-powered, photonic devices which will find applications in detectors for explosives or chemical weapons. By nature, plants are environmentally stable and have their own power source. Therefore, the next step for the MIT research team is to incorporate electronic devices into these plants. And it goes without saying that the possibilities that this brings are indeed endless.


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How does supercharged photosynthesis work?
The two-step process of photosynthesis involves - the plant's chlorophyll absorbing light, which excites electrons that flow through the thylakoid membranes of the chloroplast. By capturing this electrical energy, the plant powers the second step, which is building sugars. Even if they are removed from the plants, the chloroplasts keep performing these reactions, but only for a few hours. After that, they break down due to the damage done to photosynthetic proteins by light and oxygen. In order to have prolonged productivity in the chloroplasts, the researchers embedded them with cerium oxide nanoparticles using a new technique called lipid exchange envelope penetration, or LEEP. The results showed that the levels of damaging molecules in the plants dropped dramatically.

The research goes out to say a lot about how coupling nanotechnology with synthetic biology can modify and enhance the functions of living organisms. What do you have to say about that? Share with us in comments below.

Source: #-Link-Snipped-#​


  • feltra
    Thanks for the article. This is the way to go.

    Believe it or not, I used to have a dream in which people get lost in some forest and someone just plugs in some wires into a tree. The dream kind of ended there but it stayed with me. I was thinking that plants/trees being the original "solar energy converters", free or almost free energy needs to be thru plants.

    And yes - synthetic biology + nanotech (biology chips or nano-electronic-fluids) in plants (eventually in seeds) will be the way forward. Viola! There will be suddenly more greenery than even original earth!

    Plus "eating the right herbs" for health (unrelated to this topic, but still related to plant bio-engg) could be just to get specially grown "plants", "cook them" (maybe) and eat...

    Discovery of new worlds (715 new earth-like planets discovered in latest news) besides health/energy treatment in plain old Earth are what will drive these new researches. Imagine that modified plants to grow in atmospheres like Mars - Mars colonisation problem solved..

    Ok I am dreaming far out maybe, but this kind of news is one to be excited about. Sure there are going to be tons of problems, some calculatedly done by homo-unsapiens etc but that has always been the way forward...

    This site is really great! I used to keep browing MIT Tech Review etc, but this is the best. For all the guys who are making this happening - Keep it up guys!
  • Ankita Katdare
    Ankita Katdare
    #-Link-Snipped-# Thank you. 👍 Do stick around and feel free to contribute in ongoing discussions.

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