Plant Nanobionics a Novel Approach to Overcome the Environmental Challenges
Plant nanobionics is a new field of bioengineering that inserts nanoparticles into the cells and chloroplasts of living plants, which then alter or amplify the functioning of the plant tissue or organelle. The broader vision is to create a wide array of wild-type plants capable of imaging objects in their environment, self-powering themselves as light sources, infrared communication devices, and also function as self-powered ground water sensors. Plants are uniquely suited to perform such roles due to their ability to generate energy from sunlight and photosynthesis. In the field of nanobiotechnology, researchers want to develop bionic plants that could have better photosynthesis efficiency and biochemical sensing.
KeywordsPlant nanobionics Nanoparticles Nanobiotechnology Self-powering plants
Nanoscale science and nanotechnology is the study and application of small sized objects range from 1 to 100 nanometers (nm), where novel characteristics make new and wide uses possible. Nanomaterials are therefore characterized as natural or engineered substances with at least one dimension in the size less than 100 nm. With quite diverse appearance, engineered nanomaterials can be spherical or near-spherical, tubular, or irregularly (non-spherical) shaped, which have been found in single, fused, and agglomerated forms with compositionally homogenous or heterogeneous (Hatami et al. 2016; Service 2003). There are many specific reasons that show why nanoscale has become so prominent; some of which are as follows (Mansoori 2017):
Quantum mechanical (wavelike) characteristics of electrons inside matter are influenced by variations on the nanoscale. By nanoscale design of materials it is possible to vary their micro and macroscopic attributes including charge capacity, magnetization and melting temperature, without changing their chemical composition.
A key attribute of biological entities is the systematic organization of matter on the nanoscale. Development in nanotechnology and nanoscience has allowed us to place man-made nanoscale things inside living cells (Ebrahimi and Mansoori 2014). It has also made it possible to study micro and macro structure of materials using molecular self-assembly (Xue and Mansoori 2010). This certainly is a powerful tool in materials science.
Nanoscale components have unique properties such as very high surface to volume ratio, making them ideal for use in composite materials, reacting systems, drug delivery, and energy storage, etc.
Macroscopic systems made up of nanostructures can have much higher density than those made up of microstructures. They can also be better conductors of electricity, resulting in new electronic device concepts, smaller and faster circuits, more sophisticated functions, and greatly reduced power consumption simultaneously by controlling nanostructure interactions and complexity.
Also, nanotechnology has the potential to enable new and enhanced functional properties in photosynthetic organelles and organisms for the enhancement of solar energy harnessing and biochemical sensing. Nanobionics engineering of plant function may contribute to the development of biomimetic materials for light-harvesting and biochemical detection with regenerative properties and enhanced efficiency (Giraldo et al. 2014). Thus, nanobionics aims to give plants superpowers.
Plant Nanobionics with Improved Photosynthesis Efficiency
Plant Nanobionic with Broaden Solar Light Absorption
In most kinds of plants, thylakoid membranes within chloroplasts are main location of the photosynthetic machinery. Chloroplasts are able to absorb visible range of the light spectrum which comprise of 50% of the incident solar energy radiation. Furthermore, Plants typically make use of only about 10% of the sunlight available to them (Zhu et al. 2010).
Thus, researchers have tried to improve photosynthetic efficiency by extending the range of solar light absorption (Blankenship et al. 2011).
Nanomaterials with perfect chemical and physical traits in chloroplast-based photocatalytic complexes form cause enhanced and new functional properties (Giraldo et al. 2014).
SWNTs are able to capture visible and near-infrared spectra of light wavelengths while chloroplast antenna pigments absorption rates are limited in this case.
Single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) embedded within chloroplasts has the potential to enhance the light reactions of photosynthesis with their distinctive optical properties. SWNTs are able to capture visible and near-infrared spectra of light wavelengths while chloroplast antenna pigments absorption rates are limited in this case (Fig. 2). SWNTs convert this absorbed solar energy into excitons which transfer electrons to the photosynthetic machinery (Han et al. 2010).
Plant Nanobionic with Higher ROS Savaging Ability
Interestingly, SWNT-based nanosensors were able to monitor single-molecule dynamics of free radicals within chloroplasts for optimizing photosynthetic environmental conditions (light and CO2) (Zhang et al. 2010).
In addition, solar energy is captured by chlorophylls in the two types of pigment-protein complexes (photosystems I and II, designated PSI and PSII, respectively) and are converted into electrochemical energy to produce ATP and NADPH that are used for CO2 fixation. PSII performs the light-induced oxygen evolution reaction and transfers electrons from water to plastoquinone in the membrane and PSI produces strong reducing power using electrons supplied by PSII and reduces ferredoxin and NADPH. Noji et al. (2011) illustrated that nanomesoporous silica compound (SBA) conjugated with photosystem II (PSII) maintained the high and stable oxygen-evolving ability of T. vulcanus PSII even inside silica nanopores. The activity lasted more than 3 h under the moderate illumination/dark cycles. Combination of PSII-SBA conjugates with the mediator recycling systems can remove the harmful effects of electron acceptors and light-induced radicals and have properties to develop for photosensors and artificial photosynthetic system.
Plant Nanobionic Designed as Detector for Various Chemicals Presented in Environment
Because the water evaporates, chemicals drawn up along with the fluid that don’t easily vaporize get concentrated in the leaves. This means plants can detect very low concentrations of chemicals. Plant nanobionics has also enabled us to use plants as detectors for the presence of different chemicals in the soil and water, and even in the air. When one of these chemical compounds are present in the groundwater being absorbed and sampled naturally by the plant, the embedded carbon nanotubes will emit a fluorescent signal that can be read with an infrared camera that can be attached to a small computer similar to smart phone. The computer will then send an e-mail to the user.
Nanobionic Plant as Nitroaromatics Detector
Nanobionic Plant as Temperature Detector
Cyberwood was designed by employing a new synthetic carbon nanotubes which mechanical and structural properties resembling wood embedded and exquisitely sensitive to temperature changes into a matrix of plant cells from the tobacco. Preserving plant cells’ natural ability to sense temperature variations even after their death cause electricity conductivity of this kind of carbon nanotubes change with temperature. The presence ofmulti-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) confers structural stability and a high electrical conductivity,which can be exploited to connect the samples to anexternal circuit (Di Giacomo et al. 2015). In fact, pectins and charged atoms (ions) play a key role in the temperature sensitivity of both living plant cells and the dry cyberwood. Pectins are sugar molecules found in plant cell walls that can be cross-linked, depending on temperature, to form a gel. Calcium and magnesium ions are both present in this gel. As the temperature rises, the links of the pectin break apart, the gel becomes softer, and the ions can move about more freely. As a result, the material conducts electricity better when temperature increases.
Conclusion and Future Prospects
Utilization of nanoparticles to create nanobionic-plant-enabled sensors for environment monitoring is a novel complex strategy. The researchers’ interest to design creative nanosensors give real-time information from a plant is growing sharply. The product of this kinds of researches will Make human dreams of carrying a plant speak about their surroundings to a reality. Researchers are trying to increase the number of sensors that can be applied to plants and enhance chemicals detections in both the air and groundwater by plants. Monitoring plant signaling pathways of pest infestations, damage, and drought while being capable to real-time analysis will be a new revolution in agriculture industry. It is not far to have commercial sensing plants in home send messages directly on smart phone data about temperature, humidity and pollutants.
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