Luo Yifei, PhD student attaches an electrode on the surface of a venus flytrap plant.
Remote-controlled Venus flytrap "robo-plants" and crops that tell farmers when they are hit by disease could become reality after scientists developed a high-tech system for communicating with vegetation.
Researchers in Singapore linked up plants to electrodes capable of monitoring the weak electrical pulses naturally emitted by the greenery.
The scientists used the technology to trigger a Venus flytrap to snap its jaws shut at the push of a button on a smartphone app.
There are still challenges to be overcome. Scientists can stimulate the flytrap's jaws to slam shut but can't yet reopen them -- a process that takes 10 or more hours to happen naturally.
The system can also pick up signals emitted by plants, raising the possibility that farmers will be able to detect problems with their crops at an early stage.
Researchers believe such technology could be particularly useful as crops face increasing threats from climate change.
Scientists have long known that plants emit very weak electrical signals but their uneven and waxy surfaces makes it difficult to effectively mount sensors.
The NTU researchers developed film-like, soft electrodes that fit tightly to the plant's surface and can detect signals more accurately.
They are attached using a "thermogel", which is liquid at low temperatures but turns into a gel at room temperature.
They are the latest to conduct research communicating with plants.
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