By placing a conformable electrode (a piece of conductive material) on the surface of a Venus flytrap plant, the team at NTU Singapore has developed a plant communication device .
In this way they want to capture electrical signals to monitor how the plant responds to its environment and transmit electrical signals to the plant to make it close its leaves.
The device has a diameter of 3 mm and is harmless to the plant. It does not affect the plant’s ability to photosynthesize while successfully detecting the plant’s electrical signals. The NTU team was inspired by the electrocardiogram (ECG), which is used to detect heart abnormalities by measuring the electrical activity generated by the organ .
Their findings were published in the journal Nature Electronics . Developing the ability to measure electrical signals from plants could create opportunities for a variety of useful applications, such as plant-based robots that can help pick up fragile objects or help improve food safety by detecting diseases in early crops .
According to the study’s lead author, Chen Xiaodong , Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NTU Singapore:
Climate change is threatening food security around the world. By monitoring electrical signals from plants, we can detect potential distress signals and abnormalities. When used for agricultural purposes, farmers can discover when a disease is in progress, even before full symptoms appear on crops, such as yellowing leaves. This can provide us with the opportunity to act quickly to maximize crop yields for the population.