A team of engineers has created a system by which spinach can warn about the presence of chemicals in groundwater, pollution and other environmental conditions through emails.
An experiment conducted by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has made it possible for spinach to notify by email about the presence of nitroaromatics, compounds used to make explosives and are found in minefields, in groundwater.
The roots are responsible for detecting a potential environmental threat to the plant. They transmit it to the carbon nanotubes of the leaves and send a signal that is recognized by an infrared camera, which issues an alert that arrives by email.
“Plants are very good analytical chemistry. They have an extensive network of roots in the soil, are constantly taking groundwater samples and have a way to self-feed the transport of that water to the leaves,” said Professor Michael Strano of MIT, lead researcher at the project.
The researchers believe that this experiment has demonstrated in a novel way how technology has helped overcome the communication barrier between plants and humans.
It is not the first experiment of its kind that Professor Strano has done. In December 2020, he had already designed a bionic fern capable of detecting arsenic in the earth. The sensitivity of the plant allowed it to detect such low levels of arsenic that no other system is capable of alerting.