New York: Oxygen and greenery is fine but what about plants that can sense pollution and even detect chemical explosives?
By embedding tiny structures called carbon nanotubes into chloroplasts -- the energy factories inside plant cells -- researchers have been successful in increasing their light-capturing ability by 30 percent.
This new energy enabled them to sense atmospheric pollutant nitric oxide, they claimed.
"We have begun a new technology platform for plants called plant nanobionics," said Michael Strano, a chemical engineer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
We all know that plant cells convert light into chemical energy by a process known as photosynthesis with the help from chloroplasts.
Strano and his team embedded the chloroplasts with tiny antioxidant particles or nanoparticles.
They then coated tiny cylinders called carbon nanotubes in negatively charged DNA and embedded them in the chloroplasts.
With both antioxidant nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes in the chloroplasts, these cells continued to function even longer.
The researchers also improved the energy efficiency of living plants.
They infused nanoparticles into a flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana and improved photosynthesis by 30 percent, said the study.
Nanobionic plants could also be used to monitor pesticides, fungal infections, bacterial toxins and hazardous chemical compounds, the study published in the journal Nature Materials concluded.