Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have augmented plants with nanomaterials that will enable them to produce energy and monitor environmental pollutants. The research is the first step in the scientific field that is being dubbed as plant nanobionics.
In their research, scientists enhanced the photosynthetic function of chloroplasts isolated from plants for possible use as solar cells. Chloroplasts are needed for photosynthesis, the process through which plants make food. These chloroplasts were extracted from the plants and were embedded with nanoceria (cerium oxide nanoparticles) to prolong their life outside the plant.
They were also embedded with carbon nanotubes through a process called lipid exchange envelope penetration that acted as prosthetic photoabsorbers to use 49% more sunlight. Soon after this, researchers used vascular infusion to deliver nanoparticles to the plant Arbidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant, that boosted photosynthetic electrons by 30 percent. Moreover, the plant also detected nitric oxide, a pollutant created from combustion.