Science-fiction writers have long envisioned human–machine hybrids that wield extraordinary powers. However, “super plants” with integrated nanomaterials may be much closer to reality than cyborgs.
Today, scientists report the development of plants that can make nanomaterials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and the application of MOFs as coatings on plants. The augmented plants could potentially perform useful new functions, such as sensing chemicals or harvesting light more efficiently.
The researchers will present their results today at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition. ACS, the world’s largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features nearly 13,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.
According to the project’s lead researcher, Joseph Richardson, Ph.D., humans have been introducing foreign materials to plants for thousands of years. “One example of this is flower dyeing,” he says. “You’d immerse a cut flower stem into some dye, and the dye would be taken up through the stem and penetrate into the flower petals, and then you’d see these beautiful colors.”
Because of their extensive vascular networks, plants readily absorb water and molecules dissolved in fluids. However, it’s more difficult for larger materials and nanoparticles such as MOFs to penetrate roots. So Richardson and colleagues at the University of Melbourne (Australia) wondered if they could feed plants MOF precursors, which the plants would absorb and then convert into finished nanomaterials.
MOFs –– which consist of metal ions or clusters linked to organic molecules –– form highly porous crystals that can sop up, store and release other molecules, much like a sponge. Chemists have made thousands of different MOFs so far, with potential applications ranging from storing hydrogen fuel to absorbing greenhouse gases to delivering medications within the body. Having plants make small amounts of these useful compounds in their own tissues could give them new abilities not seen in nature.
To see whether plants could make MOFs, Richardson and colleagues added metal salts and organic linkers to water and then placed cuttings or intact plants into the solution. The plants transported the precursors into their tissues, where two different types of fluorescent MOF crystals grew. In a proof-of-concept experiment, MOF-producing lotus plant clippings detected small concentrations of acetone in water, as shown by a decrease in fluorescence of the materials. Based on these results, Richardson plans to explore whether plant-MOF hybrids could sense explosives or other volatile chemicals, which could be useful for airport security.
In addition to having the plants make MOFs, the finished materials could be used as a coating on the plants to help them convert harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays into light that’s more useful for photosynthesis. “As we contemplate growing crops in space or on Mars where you don’t have an atmosphere and are bombarded by UV rays, something like this could be helpful,” Richardson says. “That’s because it not only protects the plants from the UV rays, but it also turns them into useful energy. Especially as you get farther away from the sun, it’s harder to capture all of the light you’d need for photosynthesis.”
The researchers have already started examining the protective abilities of the nanomaterials, and the preliminary data are promising. The team coated clippings of chrysanthemum and lilyturf with luminescent MOFs and then exposed the plants to UVC light for three hours. Compared with uncoated clippings, the plants with MOFs showed less wilting and bleaching.
Now, Richardson is teaming up with plant biologists to study the effects of MOFs on plant growth. So far, they haven’t noticed any toxicity of the nanomaterials. The researchers also want to explore whether MOFs could actually help plants grow better, which may lead to applications in agriculture.
Learn more: Nanomaterials Give Plants ‘Super’ Abilities
The Latest on: Super plants
via Google News
The Latest on: Super plants
- Super Mario Theory: The Mushroom Kingdom's Inhabitants Are SECRETLY Immortalon October 7, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Death in a video game, especially Mario, is just part of the experience. But could Mario characters actually be secretly immortal?
- What's wrong with the lilacs? Beloved plants in Minnesota threatened by leaf funguson October 6, 2020 at 12:59 pm
It’s unusual because lilacs, while beloved in spring for their fragrant blooms, are low-maintenance survivors that are easily forgotten the rest of the year. “They’re long-lived and generally ignored, ...
- NFL Kicks Off Super Bowl LV Community Greening Programon October 6, 2020 at 12:02 am
Tampa Bay receives “Golden Shovel” from Miami; symbolic Super Bowl “Golden Shovel” is passed from one Super Bowl host community to the next.
- 'Golden shovel' passed to Tampa Bay Super Bowl host committee for community greening programon October 5, 2020 at 3:38 pm
One project includes continued restoration of a Florida coral reef, which unites the previous host committee in Miami to Tampa Bay.
- Minecraft's Steve In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Release Date, Abilities, And Moreon October 5, 2020 at 9:10 am
After first revealing the character during a brief video last week, Nintendo has since shared much more about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's new DLC fighter: Steve from Minecraft. Technically available ...
- 3.5 Ways Super Mario Bros. 35 Changes the Gameon October 5, 2020 at 5:03 am
Nintendo’s newest entry in the battle royale genre is here and it’s already proving to be a worthy addition. Like Tetris 99 before it, Super Mario Bros. 35 takes an old game and puts a multiplayer ...
- Super Mario Bros. 35 review: 8-bit throwdownon October 2, 2020 at 9:24 am
How does the classic Super Mario Bros. translate as a battle royale? Our review. For many people who grew up in the 80s, the original Super Mario Bros. game is one that needs no explanation. It's the ...
- A Chinese Chemical Company Captures and Reuses 6,000 Tons of a Super-Polluting Greenhouse Gason October 1, 2020 at 9:48 pm
The nitrous oxide, a byproduct of nylon manufacturing, is nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The amount recycled equals emissions from 400,000 cars.
- 35 Thoughts About Mario on Super Mario’s 35th Anniversaryon October 1, 2020 at 11:38 am
Insights and observations about Super Mario, what he means to video game culture and why he remains popular today.
- Minecraft Plants ‘A New Seed’ in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with Latest Character Revealon October 1, 2020 at 10:33 am
Nintendo teased the next DLC addition to the ever-growing roster of their signature platform fighter on Switch, marking the second of six planned characters as part of Fighter Pass Volume 2. That ...
via Bing News