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

Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, a pipet and a polymer: With the 'rolling droplet technique,' a DNA-injected water droplet rolls like a ball over a platelet, sticking the DNA to the plate surface February 27th, 2015

Rice's Stephan Link honored for nanoscience research: The Welch Foundation honors ‘rising star’ with $100,000 Hackerman Award February 26th, 2015

Indefinite Life Extension Activists Organize Online Demonstration February 26th, 2015

Renishaw and Bruker team up for a workshop on TERS and co-localised AFM Raman February 26th, 2015

Chemistry

Chromium-Centered Cycloparaphenylene Rings as New Tools for Making Functionalized Nanocarbons February 24th, 2015

Stretch and relax! -- Losing 1 electron switches magnetism on in dichromium February 23rd, 2015

A straightforward, rapid and continuous method to protect MOF nanocrystals against water February 9th, 2015

Research shows benefits of silicon carbide for sensors in harsh environments: Advantages identified across industries February 9th, 2015

Sensors

Penn researchers develop new technique for making molybdenum disulfide: Extra control over monolayer material with advantages over graphene February 19th, 2015

Researchers build atomically thin gas and chemical sensors: Sensors made of molybdenum disulfide are small, thin and have a high level of selectivity when detecting gases and chemicals February 19th, 2015

Production of Biosensor in Iran to Detect Oxalic Acid February 18th, 2015

Improved fire detection with new ultra-sensitive, ultraviolet light sensor February 17th, 2015

Discoveries

Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, a pipet and a polymer: With the 'rolling droplet technique,' a DNA-injected water droplet rolls like a ball over a platelet, sticking the DNA to the plate surface February 27th, 2015

Real-time observation of bond formation by using femtosecond X-ray liquidography February 26th, 2015

Graphene shows potential as novel anti-cancer therapeutic strategy: University of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralise cancer stem cells while not harming other cells February 26th, 2015

Simple, Cost-Efficient Method Used to Determine Toxicants Growing in Pistachio February 26th, 2015

Announcements

Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, a pipet and a polymer: With the 'rolling droplet technique,' a DNA-injected water droplet rolls like a ball over a platelet, sticking the DNA to the plate surface February 27th, 2015

Real-time observation of bond formation by using femtosecond X-ray liquidography February 26th, 2015

Bruker-Sponsored Sixth AFM BioMed Conference Highlights Increasing Impact of AFM in Biological Applications February 26th, 2015

Graphene shows potential as novel anti-cancer therapeutic strategy: University of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralise cancer stem cells while not harming other cells February 26th, 2015

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

Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, a pipet and a polymer: With the 'rolling droplet technique,' a DNA-injected water droplet rolls like a ball over a platelet, sticking the DNA to the plate surface February 27th, 2015

Real-time observation of bond formation by using femtosecond X-ray liquidography February 26th, 2015

Graphene shows potential as novel anti-cancer therapeutic strategy: University of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralise cancer stem cells while not harming other cells February 26th, 2015

Simple, Cost-Efficient Method Used to Determine Toxicants Growing in Pistachio February 26th, 2015

Homeland Security

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

Detection of Heavy Metals in Samples with Naked Eye January 26th, 2015

Detecting gases wirelessly and cheaply: New sensor can transmit information on hazardous chemicals or food spoilage to a smartphone December 8th, 2014

Laser sniffs out toxic gases from afar: System can ID chemicals in the atmosphere from a kilometer away December 4th, 2014

Military

Simulating superconducting materials with ultracold atoms: Rice physicists build superconductor analog, observe antiferromagnetic order February 23rd, 2015

Perfect colors, captured with one ultra-thin lens: No need for color correction -- Harvard physicists' flat optics, using nanotechnology, get it right the first time February 19th, 2015

Penn researchers develop new technique for making molybdenum disulfide: Extra control over monolayer material with advantages over graphene February 19th, 2015

New nanogel for drug delivery: Self-healing gel can be injected into the body and act as a long-term drug depot February 19th, 2015

Food/Agriculture/Supplements

Simple, Cost-Efficient Method Used to Determine Toxicants Growing in Pistachio February 26th, 2015

Iranian Scientists Find Solution to Measure Species Existing in Liquids February 6th, 2015

Best practice guide for the safe handling and use of nanoparticles in packaging industries now available: A novel best practice guide is now available to support the safe handling and use of nanoparticles in packaging industries February 2nd, 2015

Everything You Need To Know About Nanopesticides January 30th, 2015

Energy

In quest for better lithium-air batteries, chemists boost carbon's stability: Nanoparticle coatings improve stability, cyclability of '3DOm' carbon February 25th, 2015

New nanowire structure absorbs light efficiently: Dual-type nanowire arrays can be used in applications such as LEDs and solar cells February 25th, 2015

Learning by eye: Silicon micro-funnels increase the efficiency of solar cells February 25th, 2015

Magnetic nanoparticles enhance performance of solar cells X-ray study points the way to higher energy yields February 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







© Copyright 1999-2015 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE