Nanotechnology Now





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Bionic plants: Nanotechnology could turn shrubbery into supercharged energy

Credit: Bryce Vickmark
Making bionic plants
Researchers use a near-infrared microscope to read the output of carbon nanotube sensors embedded in Arabidopsis thallana plant.
Credit: Bryce Vickmark

Making bionic plants Researchers use a near-infrared microscope to read the output of carbon nanotube sensors embedded in Arabidopsis thallana plant.

Abstract:
Plants have many valuable functions: They provide food and fuel, release the oxygen that we breathe, and add beauty to our surroundings. Now, a team of MIT researchers wants to make plants even more useful by augmenting them with nanomaterials that could enhance their energy production and give them completely new functions, such as monitoring environmental pollutants.

Bionic plants: Nanotechnology could turn shrubbery into supercharged energy

Cambridge, MA | Posted on March 16th, 2014

In a new Nature Materials paper, the researchers report boosting plants' ability to capture light energy by 30 percent by embedding carbon nanotubes in the chloroplast, the plant organelle where photosynthesis takes place. Using another type of carbon nanotube, they also modified plants to detect the gas nitric oxide.

Together, these represent the first steps in launching a scientific field the researchers have dubbed "plant nanobionics."

"Plants are very attractive as a technology platform," says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and leader of the MIT research team. "They repair themselves, they're environmentally stable outside, they survive in harsh environments, and they provide their own power source and water distribution."

Strano and the paper's lead author, postdoc and plant biologist Juan Pablo Giraldo, envision turning plants into self-powered, photonic devices such as detectors for explosives or chemical weapons. The researchers are also working on incorporating electronic devices into plants. "The potential is really endless," Strano says.

Supercharged photosynthesis

The idea for nanobionic plants grew out of a project in Strano's lab to build self-repairing solar cells modeled on plant cells. As a next step, the researchers wanted to try enhancing the photosynthetic function of chloroplasts isolated from plants, for possible use in solar cells.

Chloroplasts host all of the machinery needed for photosynthesis, which occurs in two stages. During the first stage, pigments such as chlorophyll absorb light, which excites electrons that flow through the thylakoid membranes of the chloroplast. The plant captures this electrical energy and uses it to power the second stage of photosynthesis — building sugars.

Chloroplasts can still perform these reactions when removed from plants, but after a few hours, they start to break down because light and oxygen damage the photosynthetic proteins. Usually plants can completely repair this kind of damage, but extracted chloroplasts can't do it on their own.

To prolong the chloroplasts' productivity, the researchers embedded them with cerium oxide nanoparticles, also known as nanoceria. These particles are very strong antioxidants that scavenge oxygen radicals and other highly reactive molecules produced by light and oxygen, protecting the chloroplasts from damage.

The researchers delivered nanoceria into the chloroplasts using a new technique they developed called lipid exchange envelope penetration, or LEEP. Wrapping the particles in polyacrylic acid, a highly charged molecule, allows the particles to penetrate the fatty, hydrophobic membranes that surrounds chloroplasts. In these chloroplasts, levels of damaging molecules dropped dramatically.

Using the same delivery technique, the researchers also embedded semiconducting carbon nanotubes, coated in negatively charged DNA, into the chloroplasts. Plants typically make use of only about 10 percent of the sunlight available to them, but carbon nanotubes could act as artificial antennae that allow chloroplasts to capture wavelengths of light not in their normal range, such as ultraviolet, green, and near-infrared.

With carbon nanotubes appearing to act as a "prosthetic photoabsorber," photosynthetic activity — measured by the rate of electron flow through the thylakoid membranes — was 49 percent greater than that in isolated chloroplasts without embedded nanotubes. When nanoceria and carbon nanotubes were delivered together, the chloroplasts remained active for a few extra hours.

The researchers then turned to living plants and used a technique called vascular infusion to deliver nanoparticles into Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant. Using this method, the researchers applied a solution of nanoparticles to the underside of the leaf, where it penetrated tiny pores known as stomata, which normally allow carbon dioxide to flow in and oxygen to flow out. In these plants, the nanotubes moved into the chloroplast and boosted photosynthetic electron flow by about 30 percent.

Yet to be discovered is how that extra electron flow influences the plants' sugar production. "This is a question that we are still trying to answer in the lab: What is the impact of nanoparticles on the production of chemical fuels like glucose?" Giraldo says.

Lean green machines

The researchers also showed that they could turn Arabidopsis thaliana plants into chemical sensors by delivering carbon nanotubes that detect the gas nitric oxide, an environmental pollutant produced by combustion.

Strano's lab has previously developed carbon nanotube sensors for many different chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, the explosive TNT, and the nerve gas sarin. When the target molecule binds to a polymer wrapped around the nanotube, it alters the tube's fluorescence.

"We could someday use these carbon nanotubes to make sensors that detect in real time, at the single-particle level, free radicals or signaling molecules that are at very low-concentration and difficult to detect," Giraldo says.

By adapting the sensors to different targets, the researchers hope to develop plants that could be used to monitor environmental pollution, pesticides, fungal infections, or exposure to bacterial toxins. They are also working on incorporating electronic nanomaterials, such as graphene, into plants.

"Right now, almost no one is working in this emerging field," Giraldo says. "It's an opportunity for people from plant biology and the chemical engineering nanotechnology community to work together in an area that has a large potential."

###
The research was funded primarily by the U.S. Department of Energy.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Sarah McDonnell

617-253-8923

Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Stanford breakthrough heralds super-efficient light-based computers: Light can transmit more data while consuming far less power than electricity, and an engineering feat brings optical data transport closer to replacing wires May 29th, 2015

Donuts, math, and superdense teleportation of quantum information May 29th, 2015

OSU researchers prove magnetism can control heat, sound: Team leverages OSC services to help confirm, interpret experimental findings May 29th, 2015

Two UCSB Professors Receive Early Career Research Awards: The Department of Energy’s award for young scientists acknowledges UC Santa Barbara’s standing as a top tier research institution May 29th, 2015

Chemistry

Chemists discover key reaction mechanism behind the highly touted sodium-oxygen battery May 28th, 2015

Production of Copper Cobaltite Nanocomposites with Photocatalytic Properties in Iran May 27th, 2015

This Slinky lookalike 'hyperlens' helps us see tiny objects: The photonics advancement could improve early cancer detection, nanoelectronics manufacturing and scientists' ability to observe single molecules May 23rd, 2015

Conversion of Greenhouse Gases to Syngas in Presence of Nanocatalysts in Iran May 22nd, 2015

Sensors

SouthWest NanoTechnologies Introduces AgeNT™ Transparent Conductor System at SID Display Week, Booth #543 May 28th, 2015

Technology for Tomorrow’s Market Opportunities and Challenges: LetiDays Grenoble Presents the Possibilities: June 24-25 Event Includes Focus on IoT-Augmented Mobility and Leti’s Latest Results on Silicon Technologies, Sensors, Health Applications and Smart Cities May 27th, 2015

This Slinky lookalike 'hyperlens' helps us see tiny objects: The photonics advancement could improve early cancer detection, nanoelectronics manufacturing and scientists' ability to observe single molecules May 23rd, 2015

Record high sensitive Graphene Hall sensors May 21st, 2015

Discoveries

Stanford breakthrough heralds super-efficient light-based computers: Light can transmit more data while consuming far less power than electricity, and an engineering feat brings optical data transport closer to replacing wires May 29th, 2015

Donuts, math, and superdense teleportation of quantum information May 29th, 2015

OSU researchers prove magnetism can control heat, sound: Team leverages OSC services to help confirm, interpret experimental findings May 29th, 2015

New technique speeds nanoMRI imaging: Multiplexing technique for nanoscale magnetic resonance imaging developed by researchers in Switzerland cuts normal scan time from two weeks to two days May 28th, 2015

Announcements

Stanford breakthrough heralds super-efficient light-based computers: Light can transmit more data while consuming far less power than electricity, and an engineering feat brings optical data transport closer to replacing wires May 29th, 2015

Donuts, math, and superdense teleportation of quantum information May 29th, 2015

OSU researchers prove magnetism can control heat, sound: Team leverages OSC services to help confirm, interpret experimental findings May 29th, 2015

Two UCSB Professors Receive Early Career Research Awards: The Department of Energy’s award for young scientists acknowledges UC Santa Barbara’s standing as a top tier research institution May 29th, 2015

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Stanford breakthrough heralds super-efficient light-based computers: Light can transmit more data while consuming far less power than electricity, and an engineering feat brings optical data transport closer to replacing wires May 29th, 2015

Donuts, math, and superdense teleportation of quantum information May 29th, 2015

OSU researchers prove magnetism can control heat, sound: Team leverages OSC services to help confirm, interpret experimental findings May 29th, 2015

Global Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) Market Expected To Reach USD 3.42 Billion By 2022 May 29th, 2015

Homeland Security

UCLA nanoscientists are first to model atomic structures of three bacterial nanomachines: Cryo electron microscope enables scientists to explore the frontiers of targeted antibiotics April 21st, 2015

Optics, nanotechnology combined to create low-cost sensor for gases April 3rd, 2015

The Universitat Politècnica de València is coordinating a European project to develop a device for the quick and early diagnosis of cancer March 7th, 2015

Detecting chemical weapons with a color-changing film January 28th, 2015

Military

OSU researchers prove magnetism can control heat, sound: Team leverages OSC services to help confirm, interpret experimental findings May 29th, 2015

Linking superconductivity and structure May 28th, 2015

This Slinky lookalike 'hyperlens' helps us see tiny objects: The photonics advancement could improve early cancer detection, nanoelectronics manufacturing and scientists' ability to observe single molecules May 23rd, 2015

New Antibacterial Wound Dressing in Iran Can Display Replacement Time May 22nd, 2015

Food/Agriculture/Supplements

Global Nano-Enabled Packaging Market For Food and Beverages Will Reach $15.0 billion in 2020 May 26th, 2015

Supercomputer unlocks secrets of plant cells to pave the way for more resilient crops: IBM partners with University of Melbourne and UQ May 21st, 2015

QuantumSphere Announces Production-Scale Validation of Nano Iron Catalysts for Multi-Billion Dollar Ammonia Industry: Significant Improvement in Ammonia Production for Agricultural Fertilizer, Global Food Crops May 7th, 2015

Nanoparticles in consumer products can significantly alter normal gut microbiome May 4th, 2015

Energy

Technology for Tomorrow’s Market Opportunities and Challenges: LetiDays Grenoble Presents the Possibilities: June 24-25 Event Includes Focus on IoT-Augmented Mobility and Leti’s Latest Results on Silicon Technologies, Sensors, Health Applications and Smart Cities May 27th, 2015

Physicists solve quantum tunneling mystery: ANU media release: An international team of scientists studying ultrafast physics have solved a mystery of quantum mechanics, and found that quantum tunneling is an instantaneous process May 27th, 2015

Fine-tuned molecular orientation is key to more efficient solar cells May 26th, 2015

DNA Double Helix Does Double Duty in Assembling Arrays of Nanoparticles: Synthetic pieces of biological molecule form framework and glue for making nanoparticle clusters and arrays May 25th, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More










ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project