Scientists have been able to turn an ordinary plant into one that is supercharged by inserting nanomaterials into the energy-producing structures within the plant. The team tripled a plant’s energy-producing potential when they used carbon nanotubes to enhance the photosynthetic ability of chloroplasts.

Chloroplasts are the cellular factories that turn sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy and sugar, so the first challenge for the scientists was how to get the nanotubes inside. Nature Materials reports how Nanotubes were coated with a single stranded DNA, which slipped through the chloroplast membranes of the plant Arabidopsis Thalina, without any problem at all.

nanoparticles and photosynthesis

With the nanotubes inside, the next step was to see how they affected photosynthesis. The scientists employed the use of a dye that changes colour when it absorbs electrons. Electrons are produced during the photosynthesis process, so the more photosynthesis that is occurring, the more dramatic the colour change of the dye would be. What the scientists saw in the plants that had been given the carbon nanotubes, was an increase in photosynthesis.

The team also wanted to see if they could help the cells get rid of clear compounds called free radicals, which damage DNA and attack photosynthetic reaction centres and proteins. They used a different nanoparticle made from metallic cerium, called nanoceria, known for their lattice-like structure. It was discovered that this structure was able to trap radicals and as a result the team found 27-percent less radicals in the chloroplasts containing nanoceria, when compared to normal plants.

With this research it could be that scientists can develop bigger, stronger plants that are resistant to damaging radicals.

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