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Can Spinach Be Used As A Bomb Detector?

Can Spinach Be Used As A Bomb Detector?

science Square
Science Square

Yes, this true that spinach can be used as a bomb detector.

Scientists in the US have made a bionic spinach plant that soaks up explosive molecules from groundwater and gives off an infrared signal.

It is not surprising that removing contaminants from soil is a time consuming and costly process. But growing plants in affected areas offers a cheap and sustainable way of dealing with waste. The field that exploits a plant’s ability to absorb and concentrate nutrients in their leaves or stem is known as phytoremediation. Once the waste is absorbed, the plant can simply be pulled out of the soil.

Spinach in lab 

A renowned person from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Min Hao said that this property also makes plants ideal for detecting contaminants. Other analyses from groundwater are drawn up by the process of transpiration process, and can accumulate even trace levels of analytes within [their] tissues,’ he says.


Wong and his colleagues in a study said that:

  • They made a nanobionic plant that can both detect explosives in groundwater and alert a user to their presence in the area.
  • After doing research this team first injected IR-fluorescent carbon nanotubes (CNTs) into a spinach plant’s leaves.
  • After doing all this process, the spinach’s roots were wrapped in cheesecloth and the common explosives component picric acid (2, 4, 6-trinitrophenol) was pipetted onto them.
  • Wong said that they first designed carbon nanotube-based sensors that selectively respond to nitroaromatics. ‘These nanotubes are useful as they quench in fluorescence intensity in the presence of nitroaromatics we also designed a reference sensor that is invariant in signal intensity. ‘Explains Wong.

Bomb sniffing spinach

  • It was researched that the nitroaromatics are drawn through the roots into its leaves, where the suppressed IR signal is imaged with a night-vision camera and sent to a smartphone via a Wi-Fi signal. The contrast images were introduced as the sensor was embedded in the leaf as well. This simple nanobionic system will offer ‘easy adoption in the field’, according to Wong.
  • He also said that he wants to explore more but there are complex environmental and technological issues. He further added that he is confident that plant nanobionics are here to stay.

Wong’s group is so confident in the plant’s potential they have set up a company called Plantae to explore how the technology can plant its roots in the industry.

Martin Pumera, a nanobiosystems specialist from Nanyang Technological University in China commented that it was an excellent example of nanoengineering. These types of explosives-sensing plants are of very high importance for environmental remediation.


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