When we think of cyborgs, we think of half-man, half-machine dispensers of justice/hunters of Sarah Connor. We automatically picture them as extremely dynamic, action-packed entities like Steve Rogers or Cylon agents, though not at the same time. Unless you're a fan-fiction writer, in which case get the hell off our page. One thing we don't imagine is cyborg plants. Until now.
Because some Vanderbilt University scientists have imagined it, and more to the point, built it. They've created a plant-bot by grafting photosynthesizing chemicals from plant leaf to gold leaf. The precious metal choice isn't for prettiness - gold has a lot of applications in nanotechnological quite apart from its cash value; in this case the nanoporous surface of the specially prepared metal provides a very large surface area for the photosynthetic chemicals to attach to.
The chemical itself is very well named, PS1 for PhotoSystem 1 (not PlayStation, alas, for you Metal Gear Solid fans). Though the creation might flout your conventions, it's a true cyborg. PS1 is normally part of a long chemical chain, converting incident light into free electrons for the creation of energy storing carbohydrates - here people have chopped off the piece of the system they want and hooked it up to machinery. The electrons are instead directed into the gold leaf to produce electrical current.
Not an awful lot of current, it must be said. The prototype system has quite a few problems: low efficiency is one, and the fact it's too fragile to be exposed to direct sunlight is another. In fact, for a solar panel you might call that a hell of a problem altogether. But the key here isn't immediate results, it's the expansion of knowledge: the unpicking, replication and even improvement of another part of the world around us. It might lead to a revolutionary new system, it might lead nowhere, but one thing is for sure:
It lets us say "We have built cyber-plants", and that's just fantastic.
Psoted by Luke McKinney
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