Plants Are Oldest Sensors in the World. Could They Be the Future of Computers?

MIT’s Harpreet Sareen suggests using plants as a new building material for computer circuits. Based on previous work using leaves as motion detectors and signal transmitters, Sareen’s Phytoactuators project enables computers to send electronic signals back to plants, transforming them into alert systems.

“Our vision is to have this layer of digital interaction within the plants themselves so we can not only sense signals through them, but also connect our digital responses with the plant’s responses,” says Sareen, who envisions such systems as tools for “soft notifications,” like the arrival of package deliveries triggering signals, to instruct houseplants to retract their leaves.

The more advanced Planta Digitalis project has embedded a conductive wire into a plant stem, linked to a computer and functioning as a sensor, as a first step toward designing circuits inside plants.

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