A bedside light powered by the houseplant sitting next to it? It may be possible.
Engineers in Sweden have managed to introduce electronic circuits into living plants, according to a new study in the journal Science Advances.
The scientists placed plant cuttings in water that contained a water-soluble polymer called PEDOT-S. After the plants absorbed the water, hardened polymer remained, distributed through the plant as a conductive “wire.” The researchers used rose cuttings in their study, as well as some living rose plants.
By combining the wires with electrolytes naturally present in the plant, the researchers were able to create a transistor that converts electrochemical signals into electrical output.
In the future, such a technology may help regulate plant physiology, perhaps controlling the rate or time flowers bloom, based on the weather or the availability of water, said Magnus Berggren, a materials engineer at Linköping University and one of the study’s authors.
But the experiment also suggests it may be possible to harvest energy from plants and trees. The amounts would be limited, but a few volts might be enough to power small gadgets.
“Today the most natural way to convert the chemical energy of a tree is to burn it, but maybe we could actually gently tap out some of the energy without killing it,” Dr. Berggren said.
“In our opinion this is a great advancer to the future. To saving money and natural resources. “
Adrian Marin and Cesar Martin