Genetically-engineered spinach can be made to detect explosives. Scientists have implanted tiny tubes into the leafy plants that let them sense when an explosive is nearby and even alert someone by email.
This is thanks to plant nanobionics.
The injected tubes give them powers.
MIT researchers put sensors into the part of the spinach leaf where photosynthesis happens. These sensors can detect a chemical that is often in landmines and other explosives: nitroaromatic compounds.
The way it works is the spinach plant absorbs the chemicals through its roots. That happens if the nitroaromatic compounds are in the groundwater. From the roots, the chemicals travel to the leaves in about 10 minutes, where they activate the plant’s sensors.
These sensors emit a fluorescent signal that can be seen from an infrared camera nearby. This camera is hooked to a tiny computer, so it can send an email alerting someone about this change.
Almost any living plant can be made to do the same thing.
Going through customs and baggage lines at the airport could end up one day become fields of spinach.