Health publications can’t stop talking about super foods, those items filled with nutrients that can boost our health. Spinach is one of them, naturally rich in substances good for our body. But what if it could have a second super power, this time given by humans? MIT engineers have developed a super spinach, not just great to eat but also great to detect… explosives #todaymagic
Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, and his research team started simple. They embedded spinach leaves with carbon nanotubes, effectively transforming the plant into a sensor. When introduced in groundwater with nitroaromatics, the leaves emit a fluorescent signal that can be read with an infrared camera.
Nitroaromatics are chemical compounds found in landmines and other explosives. When the infrared camera transmits the signal to a small computer like a smartphone, the device owner receives an e-mail informing him about the danger nearby.
Clever, right? Researchers are calling this new field “plant nanobionics”, a process that implies giving plants non-native functions a.k.a. superpowers.
“This is a novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant/human communication barrier,” says Strano, who believes plant power could also be harnessed to warn of pollutants and environmental conditions such as drought.