If you have ever read Triffids Day or visited Horror’s Little Shop, you already know you do not mess with muscle trees – especially since we probably should not be involved with robotics. After all, the only thing that is more frightening than the Giant Mutant Triffids would be the Giant Mutant cyborg Triffids. Clearly ignoring this warning, scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a device that uses electrical signals to receive information about the environment and may be able to communicate with plants with instructions on how to move the plant.
They believe that their new creation will lead to a new field of research in plant-based robotics and will describe their research in two separate research papers in Nature Electronics and Advanced Materials. Being able to provide our plants with an environmental response could also have important uses in the ongoing fight against climate change.
Lead author Professor Chen Xiaodong said in a statement, “Climate change threatens food security around the world. “When used for farming, farmers can detect when a disease is progressing, even before full-grown symptoms appear on the crop, such as yellow leaves.
It can provide an opportunity for our people to work faster to maximize crop yields.” The idea of creating a plant-based robot implies that plants emit electrical signals when they interact with the environment. These signals have their own little way of communicating with plants that they are doing something, but scientists believe that if they are able to understand these signals, they will be able to “communicate” with plants.
First, researchers must find a way to interface with plants. Typically, electrical stimulation and sensation done through electrons but they require good communication such as a shaved chest or a good baldhead. Plants are a bit different – covered in hair and alley, it is a difficult thing to attach an electrode to the surface of the plant. To overcome this, researchers have developed a special gel-like “morphable” electron that can attach to the surface and around all short hair, maintaining a good contact with plants. Once connected to a Venus flytrap, it successfully relays the signal that the plant was emitting electronically.
Taking it one-step further, the researchers managed to “talk” back to it with a command. By vibrating a certain frequency through the electrodes, they were able to enable the leaves as needed. Putting the concept of evidence in place, the researchers hope that their creation will lead to both active crop monitoring devices and sensitive robotic weapons that do less damage than today’s hard metals. The research has advanced the possibility of sustainable robotics that has been making huge strides in recent years. Therefore, they are hoping to save the planet instead of creating a monster in Audrey II-esque – yet, we cannot rule it out.
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