Drawing inspiration from the electrocardiogram, Prof Chen created a conformable electrode as a ‘communication’ device with plants to deliver reliable electrical signals to and from plants. This innovation in plant electronics leads to the first plant-based robot that can perform delicate tasks with superior power efficiency (10,000 times less than conventional robots) and enables potential crop health monitoring that can transform the agriculture landscape.
Overcoming the challenges of achieving high-quality signal detection with varying plant surface textures, Prof Chen developed electrodes and established a communication protocol with plants. These conformable electrodes are made from soft hydrogel and mesh-like gold nanomaterials to deliver reliable electrical signals to and from plants. The hydrogel material was further engineered to allow intimate contact with rough and even hairy surfaces. With the communication protocol to accurately control Venus flytrap movement, the first plant-based robot with 98% of its weight from plants and superior energy efficiency is created. The robot can be integrated on robotic arms and wirelessly controlled by a smartphone, prompting it to pick up thin wires and capture moving objects. With this breakthrough, future electronics can embark on more sustainable and smarter transformation; it is also well-positioned for next-generation precision agriculture through crop health monitoring.
Tags: plant electronics, plant-based robots, transform agriculture.