In the not-too-distant future, people around the world could be eating crops that have naturally occurring electric wiring inside their leaves. Just imagine if plants could power themselves to grow faster, warm themselves in frigid regions, or alert farmers if they need water or fertilizer.
This isn't science fiction. While crops of wired plants aren't being harvested yet, they have been grown in a scientific lab.
In fact, scientists in Sweden were able to grow naturally occurring wires up to 10 centimeters long in plant clippings. They loaded up a flower's xylem with PEDOT-S, a synthetic polymer.
A plant's xylem is similar to a person's cardiovascular system. It's a system of vessels and cells that turns water and minerals into food, or fuel.
Plants have naturally occurring electric charges in their electrolytes. The scientists tapped into those electrolytes to create working circuits.
"We can place sensors in plants and use the energy formed in chlorophyll, produce green antennas, or produce new materials," the scientists explained. "Everything occurs naturally, and we use the plants' own very advanced, unique systems."
The scientists also created pixels to make flowers more colorful. Although, the benefit of that isn't immediately clear.