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Science & Technology

Bionic spinach is able to detect explosives

November 1, 2016 | Comment icon 2 comments

MIT researchers used spinach for their experiment. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Krish Dulal
Scientists have found a way to transform regular spinach plants in to highly effective bomb detectors.
As part of a new study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, scientists implanted tiny carbon nanotubes in to the leaves of spinach plants, thus enabling them to pick up nitro-aromatics - a chemical found in landmines and other types of explosives.

After around ten minutes, the researchers shone a laser on to the leaves, prompting the nanotubes to emit a near-infrared fluorescent light which could be picked up by an infrared camera.
"Our paper outlines how one could engineer plants like this to detect virtually anything," said co-author Prof Michael Strano. "The plants could be used for defence applications, but also to monitor public spaces for terrorism related activities, since we show both water and airborne detection."

"Such plants could be used to monitor groundwater seepage from buried munitions or waste that contains nitro-aromatics."

Source: BBC News | Comments (2)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Chortle 5 years ago
Forgive the naivity of this question but wouldnt simply looking for munitions be more effective and time/cost effective rather than cultivating a plant? Or is this more relating to hidden weapons caches? Certainly wouldnt help with IED's.
Comment icon #2 Posted by paperdyer 5 years ago
Think about this; instead of using bomb-sniffing dogs, a drone with a bionic spinach plant is used with a special camera.  A whole lot safer.  If the bomb goes off while you're looking for it, you lose a drone, camera and a spinach palnt.The dogs really don't last long as sniffing for the bombs does something to them.  I don't remember exactly what, but the whole training and use is harmful to the dogs.

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