Spinach Plants Engineered to Detect Explosives

A team of scientists, including a UC Riverside assistant professor, embedded spinach leaves with carbon nanotubes to transform the plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone.

Juan Pablo Giraldo

Juan Pablo Giraldo

The work has potential applications in agriculture, where the sensors could be used by farmers to monitor plant health and improve crop yield, and in the defense and law enforcement fields, where plants embedded with the sensors could detect explosives and harmful airborne chemicals and pollutants.

“In a way, we are showing that we can turn plants into solar powered technology that report to humans what they are experiencing in the environment,” said Juan Pablo Giraldo, an assistant professor of plant physiology at UC Riverside and a co-first author of a paper about the research published Oct. 31 in the journal Nature Materials. He conducted much of the work as a post-doctoral researcher at MIT and concluded the study at UC Riverside. Read the full story.

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