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Science & Technology

Scientists create spinach that can send emails

By T.K. Randall
February 3, 2021 · Comment icon 8 comments

Plants can now communicate data electronically. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Krish Dulal
A recent experiment has produced spinach plants capable of sending information over a network.
The unorthodox experiment concerns a relatively niche area of technology research known as plant nanobionics which combines nanotechnology with plant biology to achieve new things.

The study, which was carried out by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), had initially focused on finding a way to use plants to detect explosives, but later evolved into using them to learn about the environment and to relay that information back to a mobile phone.

"Here, we demonstrate that living spinach plants can be engineered to serve as self-powered pre-concentrators and autosamplers of analytes in ambient groundwater and as infrared communication platforms that can send information to a smartphone," the study authors wrote.
Obviously we're not talking about having spinach plants type out an email in the conventional sense - instead the fusion of biology and nanotechnology has enabled sensory data from the spinach to be communicated in a way that can be picked up and analyzed by human scientists.

"Plants are very good analytical chemists," said study lead author Professor Michael Strano. "They have an extensive root network in the soil, are constantly sampling groundwater, and have a way to self-power the transport of that water up into the leaves."

"This is a novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant/human communication barrier."

Perhaps in the future, plants will be used to pick up and relay all sorts of subtle information, keeping us apprised as to the state of our planet in more detail than was ever previously possible.

Source: | Comments (8)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by OpenMindedSceptic 3 years ago
I once nearly got a fax from an orange but halfway through it ran out of juice.
Comment icon #2 Posted by joc 3 years ago
I used to text a grape, but I stopped when her pleasant responses suddenly turned into a wine.
Comment icon #3 Posted by XenoFish 3 years ago
Maybe they should spend their time creating super plants. One's the can produce 100X the oxygen while cleaning the air of all toxins and ones that produce a food that contains all the nutrients we need as a species. You know, something actually useful. Don't get me wrong I get why, but why though?
Comment icon #4 Posted by Kenemet 3 years ago
The jokes write themselves, don't they. 
Comment icon #5 Posted by jethrofloyd 3 years ago
I once tried to send e-mail to this plant, but it eat me !
Comment icon #6 Posted by odiesbsc 3 years ago
I'm Popeye the sailor man and I eats me spinach.  
Comment icon #7 Posted by rashore 3 years ago
In a way that's kind of scary. Not sure how I feel about eating nanobots, heh. It would be an incredible way to monitor plants individual needs.  But in in a floral companion plant to be utilized as living sensors would be kind of neat. For example, I plant a lot of marigolds and zinnias around my veggie gardens. Those would be useful as monitor plants. Though I might not- the bees would then be eating nanobots and really not sure what that might do. 
Comment icon #8 Posted by Hyperionxvii 3 years ago
They say members of Congress send emails, so I'm sure a plant can do it.

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