Singapore, (AFP) April 6, 2021 – Remote-controlled Venus flytrap “Robo plants” and plants that alert farmers to disease when scientists developed a high-tech system to communicate with plants.
Researchers in Singapore have linked plants to electrodes capable of monitoring weak electrical pulses natural trimmed by green plants.
Scientists used technology to turn Venus Flytrap to close its jaws by pressing a smartphone app button.
He then attached one of its jaws to the robot’s arm and got a tool to lift a piece of wire half a millimeter thick and catch small falling objects.
The technology is yet at its start, but researchers believe it could eventually create intelligent “plant-based robots” that can weaken even the most delicate objects for tricky robotic weapons.
“This type of natural robot can be combined with other artificial robots (to make one),” Chen Xiaodong, lead author of the research study at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), told AFP.
There are still challenges to overcome. Scientists can stimulate the flytrap jaws to close but have not yet been able to reopen them – a process that takes 10 hours or more to occur naturally.
The system can also consider plants’ signals, increasing the likelihood that farmers will detect problems with their crops at an early stage.
“By monitoring the plant’s electrical signals, we may be able to detect potential disturbance signals and abnormalities,” Chen Xiaodong said.
“Even before the symptoms appear in the crop, farmers can know when the disease is on the rise.”
Researchers believe that such technology could be beneficial because of the increased risk of climate change.
Scientists have long known that plants emit weak electrical signals, but their uneven, waxy surface sensors make it difficult to connect effectively with attachments.
NTU researchers developed a soft, film-like electrode that perfectly fits plant surfaces and can detect signals more accurately.
They are set up using a “thermogel,” which is liquid at low temperatures but turns into a gel at room temperature.
They are the latest to explore to interact with plants.
In 2016, a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned spinach leaves into sensors that could send scientists email alerts when they detected groundwater explosives.
The team added carbon nanotubes that leave a signal when plant roots are nitroaromatics – a compound often found in explosives. The movement is then read by an infrared camera that sends a message to the scientists.