Experts have come up with a new method to detect bombs as they will try to use bionic spinach. Scientists have previously tried to detect explosives by using dogs, silicon nanowires, X-rays, spectrometry, chemicals, as well as insects such as bees and grasshoppers.
However, it is the first time they decided to use plants. MIT researchers have conducted a comprehensive research called ‘plant nano-bionics’ during which they introduced carbon nanotubes in those plants.
This method enables spinach to detect the presence of bombs, while also transmitting the data to a wireless device. This project is possible thanks to the fact that some chemicals used in bombs have a particular scent which can be detected.
According to the researchers, the bionic spinach can detect nitroaromatics, which are chemical compounds commonly used in various explosives, including landmines. Whenever the plant detects these chemicals in their natural groundwater, it will emit a special fluorescent signal which scientists will read using infrared cameras.
Any of these cameras can be easily attached to a handheld device. According to MIT professor and lead author Michael Strano, with this project, he and his team aim to embed nanoparticles into spinach to enhance the plant with non-native features.
He also believes that this strategy can be applied to other plants as well to detect the level of pollution and the likelihood of drought. Strano underlines that once again, humans can use plants in ways we have never imagined before.
The lead researcher was helped by Juan Pablo, a former postdoctoral student from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and graduate student Min Hao Wong. Specialists hope that this initiative will reduce war casualties as much as possible.
Also, climate change has had a negative impact on many places across the world, so the team hopes to use this technology to reduce drought causes in many ecosystems. Spinach is a widely-popular leafy vegetable used in many types of dishes.
Little is known if the nanotubes will work on other plants as the project is still in the first phase. Further research is needed as scientists need to make several field tests to verify the efficiency of the bionic spinach.
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