Nav: Home

Nanomaterials give plants 'super' abilities (video)

April 03, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla., April 3, 2019 -- Science-fiction writers have long envisioned human¬-machine hybrids that wield extraordinary powers. However, "super plants" with integrated nanomaterials may be much closer to reality than cyborgs. Today, scientists report the development of plants that can make nanomaterials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and the application of MOFs as coatings on plants. The augmented plants could potentially perform useful new functions, such as sensing chemicals or harvesting light more efficiently.

The researchers will present their results today at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition. ACS, the world's largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features nearly 13,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

A brand-new video on the research is available at http://bit.ly/HLS_Plants.

According to the project's lead researcher, Joseph Richardson, Ph.D., humans have been introducing foreign materials to plants for thousands of years. "One example of this is flower dyeing," he says. "You'd immerse a cut flower stem into some dye, and the dye would be taken up through the stem and penetrate into the flower petals, and then you'd see these beautiful colors."

Because of their extensive vascular networks, plants readily absorb water and molecules dissolved in fluids. However, it's more difficult for larger materials and nanoparticles such as MOFs to penetrate roots. So Richardson and colleagues at the University of Melbourne (Australia) wondered if they could feed plants MOF precursors, which the plants would absorb and then convert into finished nanomaterials.

MOFs -- which consist of metal ions or clusters linked to organic molecules -- form highly porous crystals that can sop up, store and release other molecules, much like a sponge. Chemists have made thousands of different MOFs so far, with potential applications ranging from storing hydrogen fuel to absorbing greenhouse gases to delivering medications within the body. Having plants make small amounts of these useful compounds in their own tissues could give them new abilities not seen in nature.

To see whether plants could make MOFs, Richardson and colleagues added metal salts and organic linkers to water and then placed cuttings or intact plants into the solution. The plants transported the precursors into their tissues, where two different types of fluorescent MOF crystals grew. In a proof-of-concept experiment, MOF-producing lotus plant clippings detected small concentrations of acetone in water, as shown by a decrease in fluorescence of the materials. Based on these results, Richardson plans to explore whether plant-MOF hybrids could sense explosives or other volatile chemicals, which could be useful for airport security.

In addition to having the plants make MOFs, the finished materials could be used as a coating on the plants to help them convert harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays into light that's more useful for photosynthesis. "As we contemplate growing crops in space or on Mars where you don't have an atmosphere and are bombarded by UV rays, something like this could be helpful," Richardson says. "That's because it not only protects the plants from the UV rays, but it also turns them into useful energy. Especially as you get farther away from the sun, it's harder to capture all of the light you'd need for photosynthesis."

The researchers have already started examining the protective abilities of the nanomaterials, and the preliminary data are promising. The team coated clippings of chrysanthemum and lilyturf with luminescent MOFs and then exposed the plants to UVC light for three hours. Compared with uncoated clippings, the plants with MOFs showed less wilting and bleaching.

Now, Richardson is teaming up with plant biologists to study the effects of MOFs on plant growth. So far, they haven't noticed any toxicity of the nanomaterials. The researchers also want to explore whether MOFs could actually help plants grow better, which may lead to applications in agriculture.

A press conference on this topic will be held Wednesday, April 3, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time in the Orange County Convention Center. Reporters may check-in at the press center, Room W231B, or watch live on YouTube http://bit.ly/ACSLive_Orlando2019 ("ACSLive_Orlando2019" is case sensitive). To ask questions online, sign in with a Google account.
-end-
The researchers acknowledge support and funding from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology.

The American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive press releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

Title

Nano-bionics: Assembly of functional metal-organic nanomaterials inside plants

Abstract

Plants have a complex passive fluid transport system capable of internalizing small molecules from the environment, and this system offers an ideal route for augmenting plants with functional nanomaterials. A so far unexplored concept is the formation of functional materials, in situ, from precursors small enough to be passively internalized through the roots without harming the plants. Metal-organic frameworks are ideal for in situ biomineralization as they are composed of metal ions coordinated with organic ligands, and the precursors are small enough to be transported into and through plants. Moreover, MOFs have recently been shown to grow at bio-interfaces. Herein, we report the biomineralization of two types of metal-organic frameworks, Zn(MeIm)2 and Ln2(BDC)3, inside a variety of plants using mild reaction conditions. Zn(MeIm)2 was synthesized in a single step for plant clippings, while lanthanide MOFs (Eu2(BDC)3 and Tb2(BDC)3) were synthesized in a two-step process for both plant clippings and fully intact plants. Small-angle X-ray scattering and in situ synchrotron experiments helped elucidate the formation kinetics and crystal phases of the nano-biohybrid plants. Plants augmented with luminescent metal-organic frameworks were utilized for small molecule sensing, although other applications, such as sensing and photocatalysis, are foreseeable. Overall, the in situ generation of functional materials inside of fully intact plants could lead to more complex nano-biohybrid sensors and organisms augmented with superior performance characteristics.

American Chemical Society

Related Nanomaterials Articles:

Electronics for high-altitude use can get smaller and sturdier with new nanomaterials
Demand is growing for new materials that can be printed at ever smaller dimensions.
Water-free way to make MXenes could mean new uses for the promising nanomaterials
Ten years after producing the first sample of the now widely studied family of nanomaterials, called MXenes, Drexel University researchers have discovered a different way to make the atom-thin material that presents a number of new opportunities for using it.
Researchers develop technique to create nanomaterials which may help detect cancer earlier
For the first time, a team of scientists at the University of Central Florida has created functional nanomaterials with hollow interiors that can be used to create highly sensitive biosensors for early cancer detection.
Magnetic nanomaterials become an effective treatment against liver fibrosis
Fibrosis may affect different body organs. It develops as a reaction to long-time inflammation and is supposed to isolate the inflammation site from surrounding tissues.
More efficient risk assessment for nanomaterials
Nanotechnology is booming, but risk assessment for these tiny particles is a laborious process that presents significant challenges to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).
New technology gives insight into how nanomaterials form and grow
A new form of electron microscopy allows researchers to examine nanoscale tubular materials while they are 'alive' and forming liquids -- a first in the field.
Nanomaterials give plants 'super' abilities (video)
Science-fiction writers have long envisioned human-machine hybrids that wield extraordinary powers.
Review of the recent advances of 2D nanomaterials in Lit-ion batteries
In a paper to be published in the forthcoming issue in NANO, researchers from the China University of Petroleum (East China) have summarized the recent advances in application of 2D nanomaterials on the electrode materials of lithium-ion batteries, owing to their compelling electrochemical and mechanical properties that make them good candidates as electrodes in lit-ion batteries for high capacity and long cycle life.
New paper provides design principles for disease-sensing nanomaterials
A newly published paper from researchers at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York, Brooklyn College, and Hunter College, outlines novel design guidance that could rapidly advance development of disease-sensing nanomaterials for use in new drug development.
'Imploding' 3D printed nanomaterials in a shrinking gel
By 3d printing nanomaterials inside an 'imploding' hydrogel and shrinking them down to ten times their former size, researchers demonstrate a new method of nanofabrication that overcomes many of the previous' limitations, a new study reports.
More Nanomaterials News and Nanomaterials Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.