The project turns trees into multi-purpose biological sensors

Can trees respond to us or communicate with each other? This is the content of the EU-funded PLants Employed As SEnsing Devices (PLEASED) project, hoping to create a "plant robot". Although this technology will not allow the blue buds to communicate with the mother tree, it will respond to the environment by acting as biological sensors.

Just like most living organisms, trees produce electrical signals in response to external stimuli. By classifying the electrical signals that we respond to, the PLEASED team says they have the ability to use plants as biological sensors to measure many chemical and physical indicators, such as only pollution, temperature, humidity, light, acid rain, and the presence of chemicals in organic agriculture.

Picture 1 of The project turns trees into multi-purpose biological sensors

In an interview with, Andrea Vitaletti, project co-ordinator, acknowledged that current artifacts were able to measure many of the indicators, but plants were everywhere, cheap, persistent. and do not need to adjust. They can also measure many different indicators at the same time. This has both advantages and disadvantages because the classification between the electrical signals appearing at the same time will be more difficult.

If the electrical signals can be decoded, the team plans to develop small electronic devices with a paper clip or even smaller size so that it can be attached to the tree to collect signals. They are created in the natural environment. By collecting the signals of a crop network in the same area, Vitaletti said that they can analyze the environment in detail. He pointed out that pollution monitoring and support devices for organic agriculture are just two practical applications that exploit the technology.

Vitaletti said that an open source data set of specific stimuli and corresponding electrical responses of different plant species would be the stepping stones for the PLEASED project to take off in May this year. He also expects other scientific groups to continue to add and improve data quality in the future to improve the efficiency of the technology.

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