Roses rigged with electrical circuits

rose with electrodes

When wired with bioelectric molecules, garden roses can conduct electricity. 

Linköping University

Garden-variety roses just got an electrical upgrade.

Playing off the thirst of plant vascular systems, a team of Swedish researchers cut roses (Rosa floribunda) and set them in water containing specially designed organic molecules that can conduct and process electricity. The molecules linked up to form “wires” in the xylem, which pumps water and nutrients up from plant roots. When zapped with a charge, the wires conducted electricity without damaging the plant, the researchers write November 20 in Science Advances. Similar bioelectrical molecules induced roses’ leaves to light up and change color.

This isn’t the first time researchers have injected plants with electrical materials, but it is the first time they’ve used the plants’ own vascular system to form a circuit. The technology could provide a means of manipulating plant biology for scientific research, to harvest energy or to tweak plant physiology without the need for genetic engineering. 

Helen Thompson is the multimedia editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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