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They’ve figured out how to make spinach detect explosives

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Spinach already has a reputation for being pretty super, but bomb detection could make this leafy green a hero.

BT reports that at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, plant nanobionics are set to replace the sniffer dogs that are currently responsible for detecting explosives. By embedding spinach leaves with tiny chemical sensors, the greens can signal danger found in tainted ground water. That signal is read by an infra-red camera when a laser is shone on the plant, and could be tracked on a cellphone in the future.

The tiny pieces of electronic material might not make a bunch of spinach ripe for eating, but it would mean sussing out nitroaromatic compounds that could save people from land mines and other hard to detect explosives. Lead researcher Professor Michael Strano, told BT: “Plants are very good analytical chemists. They have an extensive root network in the soil, are constantly sampling ground water, and have a way to self-power the transport of that water up into the leaves.”

The study is revealing new ways for humans to communicate with plants, and is just giving us a further appreciation for all plants can do.

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