Plantoid! Plants may soon have robotic counterparts,thanks to Italian researchers who are developing a system that mimics the behaviour of roots.
Researchers unveiled a project called PLANTOID to build a machine that grows roots – just like a plant does.
The team led by Barbara Mazzolai from the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa plans to use bespoke soft sensors for underground exploration,tips that grow by unwinding material and a mechanism to reduce friction when penetrating the soil.
The artificial plant system will be equipped to detect gravity,water,temperature,touch,pH,nitrate and phosphate,’NewScientist’ reported.
According to researchers,modelling a growing root is difficult as it bends while increasing in length,adding cells on the opposite side from the direction in which it is heading.
A root perceives several physical and chemical stimuli at once and prioritises them,researchers said.
“The mock-ups and prototypes we’ve developed aim to validate some of the functions and features of plant roots,” said Mazzolai.
In addition to mimicking a single root,researchers are also looking at how roots interact with each other,coordinating their movements through soil.
“New findings could be the basis for novel swarm intelligence,” said Mazzolai.
The system could produce more energy-efficient robots that can adapt to their environment,the report said.
Plant-like robots can be used in environmental monitoring,and their knack for exploration and ability to anchor themselves could have applications in space.
Such a system can also find use in medicine,for example as flexible,growing endoscopes that can move easily inside a human body.