"Cyborg rose" gives a whole new meaning to flower power

Forget about vicious, man killing humanoid cyborgs of the future. We might have more peaceful, more beneficial cyborg plants sooner. Researchers at Sweden's Linkoping University have successfully introduced circuitry into a rose's vascular system, opening the doors to new ways to study plants' biological systems as well as possibly derive energy from them as well. Soon, the term "power plant" might have a literal meaning, allowing humans to derive electrical power from an, again almost literal, green energy source. Thankfully, there's less chance to turn these cyborg plants into weapons of destruction.

Most scientists in the field of cybernetics have been mostly preoccupied with applying the technology to animals and men. Very few have endeavored to do the same for vegetation and even less have successfully born fruit. Pun totally intended. To that extent, the research and experiments done by the university's Laboratory of Organic Electronics is indeed pioneering, though they have been at it since the 90s.

The researchers have done the experiment on roses, one of the most romantic of flowers known to man. A special electrically conductive polymer solution named PEDOT was used to "grow" wires inside the stem of flowers. The rose's stem was soaked in a derivative called PEDOT-S:H which resulted in small wires carry electrical charges to form along the stem's vascular tissues or xylems. On the other end, another derivative, PEDOT:PSS-NFC, was applied to the leaves using vacuum technology, filling it also with electrically conductive substance. The scientists were amazed to discover that they could change the color of the leaves electronically, similar to how flowers and leaves change color when soaked in colored water.

As interesting as it is to discover that plants can carry stable electric charges for extended periods of time, it is equally significant that the introduction of this sort of material has no apparent negative effects on the plant. Cut off stems would not deteriorate faster than similar stems that didn't have electrically conductive materials introduced into them.

The success of these experiments could very well open the flood gates into botanical research. On one side, it can give scientists additional and probably more precise ways to study how plants store and transfer energy. On the other side, it paves the way to install sensors directly into plants, use plants as antennae, or harvest energy derived from chlorophyll. As an alternate power source of the future, it could even give more incentive to preserve and even grow our existing plant population.

SOURCE: CS Monitor