TOEFL: New research is looking into how plants can be used to generate electricity and produce artificial light.
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Imagine that instead of reading by lamplight, you could instead read with the aid of a glowing plant. It may sound implausible, but scientists in the U.S. have shown that plants can be illuminated without needing genetic modification. During their research, the team created watercress that glows with the hope that one day their research will help reduce our dependence on electric lighting. A professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michael Straneau who led the research, told us how it was done.
We've started to think about can we replace the things we encounter in our everyday lives. Like the things we make out of plastic and electronic circuit boards, can we replace those with a living functioning plant.
Previously this year, we’ve made a plant that acts as a chemical sensor, and it will actually connect to a user's cellphone in the vicinity using an infrared signal. This light emitting point was an obvious extension of our research. There are several reasons to do this. So first, plants harvest their own energy from the sun. They don't need to be plugged in, but they also store that energy as sugar inside the plant. So they're really a combination of a solar cell and a battery. Not just that, but they also have other interesting functions. They'll self-repair, so if they're damaged, they actually fix themselves. They're also made entirely out of atmosphere carbon dioxide. They're made of materials that degrade in water. We are not designing the plates so that it would be edible, but it turns out that the types of nanoparticles that we are using are biocompatible in that way.
Michael Straneau from MIT.