Hybrid super plants could someday grow on Mars

Nanomaterials give plants 'super' abilities that could allow them to someday grow on Mars.


NSFW    ORLANDO, FLORIDA — Researchers have developed plants that can produce nanomaterials which then give them extraordinary abilities that could allow them to someday grow on Mars.

The study, authored by a team from the University of Melbourne, was presented at an American Chemical Society meeting on April 3.

According to the ACS, metal organic frameworks or MOFs consist of metal ions linked to organic molecules, which form highly porous crystals that can store and release chemicals. Potential applications for MOFs range from energy storage to drug delivery.

While plants readily absorb water and molecules dissolved in it, MOFs are too big to go into the vascular system.

Researchers added metal salts and organic linkers to water, and placed the plants in the solution. Once the MOF precursor molecules are absorbed, they are converted into finished nanomaterials inside the plant's tissue.

In experiments, MOF precursor molecules in lotus plant clippings grew into fluorescent crystals that were able to detect concentrations of acetone in the water - fading slightly when it did so.

Plant cuttings were also coated with luminescent MOFs and then exposed to UV light for three hours. Those with the coating had less wilting and bleaching.

According to the researchers, the MOFs are also able to convert harmful UV into light that's useful for photosynthesis. This is useful for growing crops in space, especially on Mars, where ultraviolet radiation is abundant due to the lack of atmosphere.

According to the ACS, the team has not noticed any toxicity in the nanomaterials, and is now working with plant biologists to study how MOFs affect plant growth.
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