Today’s Solutions: December 05, 2021

Scientists at Sweden’s Linköping University have recently demonstrated how plant roots can be used as viable energy storage devices. The team’s experiment involved watering bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris) with a special solution that made the roots electrically conductive, demonstrating the potential for creating biohybrid systems that combine biological processes with electronic functionality.

Dr Eleni Stavrinidou, Principal Investigator in the Electronic Plants Group at the university’s Laboratory of Organic Electronics, showed in 2015 that circuits can be integrated within the vascular tissue of roses. As reported by New Atlas, the researcher did this by dosing the plants with a conductive polymer called PEDOT. The polymer was absorbed by the plant’s vascular system to create electrical conductors that were used to form transistors. In a follow-up study, she demonstrated that a conjugated oligomer, ETE-S, could polymerize within the plant and create conductors capable of storing energy.

“We have previously worked with plants cuttings, which were able to take up and organize conducting polymers or oligomers,” says Stavrinidou. “However, the plant cuttings can survive for only a few days, and the plant is not growing anymore. In this new study, we use intact plants, a common bean plant grown from seed, and we show that the plants become electrically conducting when they are watered with a solution that contains oligomers.”

In their most recent research, the scientists have used a bean plant capable of polymerizing the ETE-S oligomer, which was added to the watering solution. They then saw a conducting film of polymer forming on the roots of the plant, causing the complete root system to function as a network of readily accessible conductors. The roots remained electrically functional for more than four weeks.

The team then explored using the roots to store energy by building a root-based supercapacitor, with the roots functioning as electrodes during charging and discharging. The plant-based supercapacitor could store 100 times the energy of its previous systems. The researchers also found that the device could be reused multiple times since the process didn’t seem to affect the plants wellbeing. The plant develops a more complex root system, but is otherwise not affected: it continues to grow and produce beans,” says Stavrinidou.

The study’s findings pave the way for the development of sustainable energy storage innovations and contribute to our understanding of how we could bridge the communication gap between electronic and biological systems.

Study source: Materials Horizons: Biohybrid plants with electronic roots via in vivo polymerization of conjugated oligomers

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

Rwanda’s mountain gorillas represent a successful conservation story

Following years of poaching and habitat destruction, the population of mountain gorillas in Rwanda once numbered under 260 individuals. Now, Rwandan gorillas represent a rare conservation success and a key economic engine for the East ... Read More

Germany plans to put 15 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2030

Making electric cars the dominant vehicles on the road is key to curbing planet-warming emissions and protecting the climate. In a bid to reach that goal, an increasing number of countries and cities across the ... Read More

Here are 5 Indigenous-led eco-charities you can support today

The climate crisis has caused us to reconsider our consumerist lifestyles and turn to Indigenous peoples to learn from their superior understanding of living in harmony with nature. Here is a list of five organizations ... Read More

Scientists discover a peculiar new planet

Deep into the Hercules constellation, 855 light-years away from Earth, lies a record breaking exoplanet. This newly discovered gas giant was named TOI-2109b, and the thing that makes it so special is the fact it ... Read More

High altitude experiment shows that snow monkeys are excellent at fishing

Snow monkeys, also known as the Japanese macaque, are native to many of the main islands of Japan. These fluffy creatures are the most northern-based non-human primate out there, meaning they have some cold temperatures ... Read More