Cyborg Rose: Researchers Develop Incredible Electronic Plants

Most roses have thorns, but cyborg roses that were recently created in a Swedish laboratory have transistors and electrodes. Researchers at Linköping University have created bionic roses incorporating electronic materials which are compatible with plants. Details surrounding this incredible creation were published Friday in the journal Science Advances. One of their bionic roses have electronic circuits that run along its stem. Another rose can change color when a voltage is applied to it.

Swedish researchers have created analog and digital electronic circuits within living plants. The team at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics (LOE), under the direction of Professor Magnus Berggren, has used the vascular system of living roses to build key components of electronic circuits. The below text gives more information as to what a cyborg rose is and its potential benefits to our society.

"The roots, stems, leaves, and vascular circuitry of higher plants are responsible for conveying the chemical signals that regulate growth and functions. From a certain perspective, these features are analogous to the contacts, interconnections, devices, and wires of discrete and integrated electronic circuits. Although many attempts have been made to augment plant function with electroactive materials, plants' "circuitry" has never been directly merged with electronics," the statement reads, adding that "analog and digital organic electronic circuits and devices have been manufactured in living plants."
The group is now working with biologists to develop applications for monitoring the physiology of plants now "that the four key components of a circuit have been achieved using the xylem, leaves, veins, and signals of the plant as the template and integral part of the circuit elements and functions." The creation of cyborg rose opens up a "range of applications including precision recording and regulation of physiology, energy harvesting from photosynthesis, and alternatives to genetic modification for plant optimization," the report explained.

Cyborg rose
Researchers develop roses equipped with biocompatible electronics [Image via Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News]According to a report from New Scientist, the experiment also opens the door for electronics that can plug into plants. The components of the cyborg rose are made ​​of flexible organic materials. These materials, which can be compatible with living tissue, are the subject of much research aimed at its use in diagnosing or treating diseases.
"Previously, we had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants. Now we'll be able to influence the concentration of the various substances in the plant that regulate growth and development. Here, I see great possibilities for learning more," says Ove Nilsson, professor of plant reproduction biology and director of the Umeå Plant Science Center who is also a co-author of the study.

The researchers attempted to use architecture and biology of a plant for assembling electronic circuits inside. They dissolved polymers - organic molecules - in water. Then they placed floribunda roses, which is a modern group of garden roses that was developed by crossing hybrid teas with polyantha roses, in this water either with their root attached or cut at the base of the stem. The idea was to bring the organic molecules up along the stem and to be assembled to form a kind of electric wire that conducts electrical signals, while still allowing water and nutrients to move around.

After completing the above process, the researchers then added in small electronic rod parts to create the equivalent of switches for interrupting the current or to let it pass. They also produced an assembly of light points on a sheet, the colors vary according to the current voltage.

As Phys.org points out, the idea of putting electronics directly into the trees for the paper industry originated in the 1990s while the LOE team at the University of Linköping was researching printed electronics on paper. The first efforts to introduce electronics in the plants were performed by assistant professor Daniel Simon, team leader of LOE's bioelectronics, and Professor Xavier Crispin, leader of the LOE's solid-state device team. However, the lack of funds from skeptical investors stopped these projects.

It is still difficult to predict whether this research will actually lead to practical applications. The combination of electronics and plants may seem against nature, but it opens up interesting perspectives.

[Image via Matt Cardy/Getty Images News]