For every electrical circuit to work, the current must be able to flow through the various components. So, what happens if we use a plant as an electrical component?
Can plants conduct electricity?
No, plants in their natural state cannot conduct electricity. However, if the conditions are altered or conductive elements are used in the plant, they can conduct electricity. While this shows that plants can be used to conduct electricity, we must remember that it can only be done artificially.
Let us explore how plants can be made to conduct electricity.
An electrical conductor is a material through which electrical current can flow easily. It is the opposite of an electrical insulator, which is a material that prevents the flow of electricity through it. An example of a good conductor is copper or gold, which offers minimal resistance. Hence, copper or gold is generally used in circuits.
However, the question of whether plants can be used as a conductor is still a question that has not been completely answered by science.
In 2015, Swedish researchers successfully showed that electricity could be circulated through a plant. It was done by injecting a conductive gel into the plant. It enabled the plant to successfully conduct electricity and also opened certain possibilities. It could be used to manage plant growth as well as produce electricity through photosynthesis.
Conductivity of Plants
Plants are essentially made up of around 80 to 95% water. We know that water can be used as a conductor. It contains sediments and minerals that ionize the water molecules and allow electricity to be conducted very well through it. Thus, it makes plants good conductors of electricity.
With global warming taking its toll the production of green and clean energy has become one of the primary concerns. While electricity in itself is clean, the means to produce it, such as coal, oil, or nuclear power tend to cause serious environmental hazards.
While science has rapidly progressed to develop cleaner sources of electricity production such as solar panels, hydroelectricity, and wind turbines, they have only been used on a small scale. So, the development of energy through plants could be a game-changer due to the abundant presence of plants on earth.
The Swedish researchers successfully developed a bionic rose that could conduct electricity. It was done by creating a water-soluble polymer called PEDOT-S, which was integrated into the plant by using the polymer dissolved water for watering the plant. It helped the researchers create a circuit, that used the xylem, veins, and leaves of the plant to conduct electricity. It was the first conductive plant in the world.
Thus, we can see that no plant has the natural ability to conduct. However, the development of the bionic rose has opened up the possibility of being able to capture the energy of the plant, that is generated through photosynthesis and to use it to produce the required green and clean energy. However, the commercial viability of this project is yet to be explored.