Plants serve a variety of purposes. They convert carbon dioxide into oxygen for human beings, they act as a source of food for both animals and humans, they even can be used as fertilizer for other plants, and lately it seems that they have even been experimented on where scientists attempt to find out if plants can make a suitable replacement for wires. Wires are typically made from metal, such as copper, which is a scarce material and not exactly one that we can “grow”. Safe to say there will be a point in time where we run out of copper, with estimates that our copper reserve could run out in 25 years.
This has prompted researchers at the University of West England to conduct an experiment in which they try to use lettuce to conduct electricity. This experiment is apparently an extension of work done on slime mould, but because slime mould is very fragile and highly dependent on environmental conditions, it makes it hard to control and constrain, versus plants which are more resilient and have a better chance of surviving a hostile environment compared to slime mould. To conduct their experiment, the scientists used a four day old lettuce seedling in which two electrodes were connected.
While it turns out that the lettuce was able to conduct electricity, it proved to be a “noisy” wire and oscillated a bit too much, making it not viable for us in sensors or computers. However one of the researchers, Andrew Adamtzky, believes that it is possible to use plants as conductors, but admits that more research needs to be done. “To incorporate plant wires into bio-hybrid self-growing circuits we must develop techniques for reliable routing of the plant roots between living and silicon components of the circuits.” Plants as wires, that could be interesting, don’t you think?