Spinach plants modified with nanotubes can detect bombs

MIT researchers modify spinach plants with fluorescent light-emitting nanotubes that signal the presence of chemical compounds found in explosives.


NSFW    CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS — MIT researchers have modified spinach plants to turn them into bomb detectors.

Explosives such as landmines contain chemical compounds called nitroaromatics. If nitroaromatics are present in groundwater, they are absorbed by the roots of the spinach plant and transported to the leaves in a process called transpiration.

Researchers embedded the spinach plant leaves with molecules called bombolitins that bind to nitroaromatics. They also embedded the leaves with carbon nanotubes, which emit a constant fluorescent signal that serves as a reference, MIT News reported.

An infrared camera then reads these fluorescent signals.

When nitroaromatics are present, the fluorescent signal from the bombolitins decreases. Once the decrease is detected, the device sends a wireless signal to the user.

The experiments were conducted within a distance of 3.3 feet but researchers are confident that the radius can be increased and one sensor could monitor multiple plants, the BBC reported.

The study is published in the journal Nature Materials.
Plants can absorb chemical compounds known as nitroaromatics, commonly found in explosives. YOUTUBE / MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT)
The plants are embedded with nanotubes that emit a fluorescent signal. YOUTUBE / MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (MIT)
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