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Scientists are turning plants into robots

Scientists are turning plants into robots

After the success of a spinach-based e-mail technology, new scientists are considering turning the plants themselves into robotsAnd if they succeed, it will become possible to control plants from smart phone applications, and plants can also self-report any diseases they feel before they even appear, which will allow many crops to be saved.

What is the story? A number of scientists in Singapore are experimenting with new systems that aim to communicate with plants, and that allow for example remote control of carnivorous “flycatcher” plants, and make them issue an alert when they are infected with a diseaseThe researchers then attached electrodes to the plants, capable of detecting the weak electrical signals that naturally emit from themThey used this technique to get the “flycatcher” plant to close its two-lobed “jaws”, based on a signal emitted by a smartphone.

Then the researchers attached one of the lobes to a robotic arm in order to extract a thin piece of metal wire that does not exceed half a millimeter, and then to capture a small object when it fell.

This technology is still in its infancy, but researchers believe that it could be used in the future to design “robotic plants” that are able to delicately and softly deal with extremely fragile objects, which is what the hard arms of conventional robots cannot.

“Natural robots” In a statement to AFP, Chen Xiaodong, author of a study published by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said, “These types of natural robots can interact with other synthetic robots to form hybrid systems.

“But that still faces a lot of problems to be solvedFor example, scientists can stimulate the closure of the flycatcher’s “jaws”, but they cannot open them, a process that normally takes ten hours or more.

The system can also detect weak signals from plants, allowing farmers to be alerted at an early stage when their plants are sick.

“Monitoring the electrical signals of plants may enable monitoring of signals that indicate their disease or any abnormal condition,” Chen said.

This would allow farmers to know that a disease is spreading “even before clear symptoms appear,” he added.

Scientists already know that electrical signals are emitted by plants, but their irregular shape and soft surface make it difficult to install sensors for them.

Researchers at Nanyang University have designed electrodes that have a soft feel to resemble plastic films and can be tied around the plant to more reliably detect the signals.

These electrodes are attached by a low-temperature liquid that turns into a gel at ambient temperatureOther researchers are following this path as wellIn 2016, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used spinach leaves as detectors capable of sending an email to scientists when explosives were detected in the substrate.

The researchers created carbon nanotubes that could emit a fluorescent signal when plant roots detect nitroaromatic, a substance often found in explosives.

The signal is read by an infrared camera that sends an email to scientists

Scientists are turning plants into robots
Scientists are turning plants into robots