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    The Next Generation of Nanobionic Light-Emitting Plants

    MIT engineers have created a new light-emitting plant that can be charged with LEDs using special nanoparticles embedded in the leaves of the plant. In this image, the green areas are nanoparticles that aggregate on the surface of the spongy mesophyll tissue within the leaves of the plant.Credits: Courtesy of researchers

    Engineers use nanoparticles that store and emit light to create a light-emitting plant that can be recharged repeatedly.

    Using special nanoparticles embedded in the leaves of the plant, MIT Engineers have created a light emitting plant that can be charged with LEDs. After 10 seconds of charging, the plant will shine brightly for a few minutes and can be recharged repeatedly.

    These plants can produce 10 times brighter light First generation shining plants What the research group reported in 2017.

    “We wanted to create a luminescent plant with particles that absorb light, store some of it, and emit it gradually,” said Michael Strano, a new author at MIT’s Professor of Chemical Engineering at Carbon P. Dubbs. Says. study. “This is a big step towards plant-based lighting.”

    Engineers make shining plants

    Illumination of a book (“Paradise Lost” by John Milton) with first-generation nanobionic luminescent plants. Credit: Seon-Yeong Kwak

    “It’s a bold idea to use the renewable chemical energy of living plants to create ambient light,” says Sheila Kennedy, a professor of architecture at MIT and author of a paper on plant-based lighting in collaboration with Strano’s group. .. “It represents a fundamental change in the way we think about living plants and electrical energy for lighting.”

    Particles can also promote photogeneration of other types of luminescent plants, including those originally developed by Strano’s lab. These plants use nanoparticles containing the enzyme luciferase found in fireflies to produce light. The ability to mix and adapt functional nanoparticles inserted into living plants to create new functional properties is an example of a new field of “plant nanobionics.”

    Former MIT postdoc Pavlo Gordiichuk is the lead author of a new treatise. Science Advances..

    Optical capacitor

    Strano’s lab has been working for several years in a new field of plant nanobionics, with the goal of giving plants new characteristics by embedding different types of nanoparticles in them. Their first-generation luminescent plants contained nanoparticles that carry luciferase and luciferin. These work together to give the fireflies a shine. Using these particles, researchers have produced watercress plants that can emit about one-thousandth of the amount of dim light needed to read for several hours.

    In a new study, Strano and his colleagues wanted to create a component that could extend the duration of light and make it brighter. They came up with the idea of ​​using capacitors that are part of the electrical circuit. Capacitors can store electricity and release it as needed. For glowing plants, optical capacitors can be used to store light in the form of photons and gradually emit it over time.

    Rechargeable light emitting plant

    After 10 seconds of charging, the plant will shine brightly for a few minutes and can be recharged repeatedly.Credits: Courtesy of researchers

    To create their “optical capacitors,” researchers decided to use a type of material known as phosphorescent material. These materials can absorb either visible or ultraviolet light and slowly emit it as a phosphorescent glow. Researchers used a compound called strontium aluminate, which can form nanoparticles, as a phosphorescent substance. Before embedding them in the plants, researchers coated the particles with silica to protect the plants from damage.

    Particles with a diameter of hundreds of nanometers can be injected into plants through stomata, which are small pores on the surface of the leaves. The particles accumulate in a spongy layer called mesophyll, where they form a thin film. The main conclusion of the new study is that the mesophyll of living plants can be made to display these photonic particles without damaging the plant or sacrificing lighting properties, the study said. Says.

    This film can absorb photons from either sunlight or LEDs. Researchers have shown that after exposing a blue LED for 10 seconds, the plant can emit light for about an hour. The light was brightest in the first 5 minutes and then gradually diminished. Plants can be continuously recharged for at least two weeks, as the team demonstrated at the 2019 Smithsonian Institute of Design Experimental Exhibition.

    Thai elephant ears

    Researchers have shown that they can illuminate the leaves of a plant called the Thai elephant ear. It is over a foot wide and is sized to use plants as an outdoor light source.Credits: Courtesy of researchers

    “We need to have a strong light delivered as one pulse for a few seconds, which can charge it,” says Gordiichuk. “We also showed that we could use a large lens, such as a Fresnel lens, to transfer the amplified light over a distance of more than a meter. This is a good step in creating an illumination of a scale that people can use. . “

    “The exhibition of botanical properties at the Smithsonian provided a vision for the future that lighting infrastructure from living plants is an integral part of the space in which people work and live,” says Kennedy. “If living plants could be the starting point for advanced technology, plants would be taken to the current unsustainable urban lamp grid for the mutual benefit of all plant-dependent species, including people. May be replaced. “

    Large-scale lighting

    Researchers at MIT have found that the “optical capacitor” approach works with a variety of plant species, including basil, watercress, and tobacco. They also showed that they could illuminate the leaves of a plant called Thai elephant ears. It is over a foot wide and is sized to use plants as an outdoor light source.

    Researchers have also investigated whether nanoparticles interfere with normal plant function. They found that over a 10-day period, plants were able to photosynthesize normally and evaporate water through their stomata. At the end of the experiment, researchers were able to extract about 60% of the phosphorescent material from the plant and reuse it in another plant.

    Researchers in Strano’s lab are working on a combination of phosphorescent condenser particles and the luciferase nanoparticles used in the 2017 study, combining the two technologies to create plants that can produce brighter light for longer periods of time. I expect it to be generated.

    Reference: “Photonic condenser of living plant mesophyll” by Pavlo Gordiichuk, Sarah Coleman, Ge Zhang, Matthias Kuehne, Tedrick TS Lew, Minkyung Park, Jianqiao Cui, Allan M. Brooks, Karaghen Hudson, Anne M. Graziano, Daniel JM Marshall, Zain Calsan, Sheila Kennedy, Michael S. Strano, September 8, 2021 Science Advances..
    DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.abe9733

    This research was funded by Thailand Magnolia Quality Development Corp., Professor Amar G. Bose Research Grant, MIT’s Advanced Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, Singapore Institute for Scientific Research and Technology, Samsung Scholarship, and Research Fellowship of the German Research Foundation. .. ..

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