MIT Current Affairs

MIT scientists create plants that can glow in dark

Scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US have found a novel way to induce plants to give off dim light by embedding specialised nanoparticles into their leaves.

The purpose of this experiment was to make plant function as a desk lamp, powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself and not by electricity connection.

Key Facts

To create the glowing plants, scientists has used to luciferase, an enzyme that gives fireflies their glow. Luciferase acts on molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light. Moreover, they had used another molecule called co-enzyme A which helps process along by removing reaction by-product that can inhibit luciferase activity.

They had packaged each of these three components into silica nanoparticle carrier about 10 nanometres in diameter to carry luciferase. They also used slightly larger particles of the polymers PLGA and chitosan to carry luciferin and coenzyme A, respectively.

To get the nanoparticles particles into plant leaves, scientists first had suspended particles in solution. Then plants were immersed in solution and later exposed to high pressure. It allowed particles to enter leaves through tiny pores called stomata.

Particles releasing luciferin and coenzyme A were designed to accumulate in extracellular space of mesophyll, an inner layer of leaf, while smaller particles carrying luciferase enter cells that make up mesophyll. The PLGA particles gradually released luciferin in solution, which then entered plant cells, where luciferase performs chemical reaction that makes luciferin glow. In this experiment, plants glowed for about 45 minutes.

Significance

It is considered as major step towards using plants to illuminate the workspace. This technology can be used to provide low-intensity indoor lighting, or to transform trees into self-powered street lights.

Tags:

Researchers develop battery powered by stomach acid

Researchers from MIT have developed a small battery that runs on stomach acids and is capable of powering e-pills to monitor patient health.

The small system can generate enough power to run small sensors or drug delivery devices that can reside in the gastrointestinal tract for extended periods of time.

Key Facts
  • For this battery, researchers used idea of very simple type of voltaic cell, lemon battery which produces electric current between the two electrodes stuck in a lemon due to its citric acid.
  • To replicate it, the researchers attached zinc and copper electrodes to the surface of their ingestible sensor. The zinc emits ions into the acid in the stomach to power the voltaic circuit.
  • It can generate enough energy to power a commercial temperature sensor and a 900-megahertz transmitter to wirelessly transmit the data to a base station located 2m away, with a signal sent every 12 seconds.
  • The current prototype of the device is a cylinder about 12 millimeters in diameter and 40 millimeters long. Researchers are anticipating to make the capsule about one-third that size.
  • Significance: It offers a safer and lower-cost alternative to the traditional batteries used to power such devices.
  • It can also help in manufacturing new generation of electronic ingestible pills that could enable novel ways of monitoring patient health and treating disease.

Tags:

Advertisement

123