A team of researchers from the University of the West of England have put their heads together to find possible new forms of conductors for use in computing sensors and processors. After having no luck with slime mould, they have come up with the idea of using lettuce instead – but of course!
The UWE team, led by Andrew Adamatzky, have looked into using plants as replacements for wires for a number of years now as a way of progressing the field of unconventional computing that gained wide popularity in the 1980s. Their theory is that because plants are "mobile, growing, adaptive intelligent units" they would be good candidates for their wire theory. Slime mould was their main candidate until it was decided that slime sensors were far too fragile for any real use compared to the more robust, resilient nature of plant roots.
In experiments a four-day-old lettuce seedling, effectively one single strand, was connected between two aluminium electrodes with the 'glue' being two drops of distilled water at the connection points. An electrical charge was passed through the circuit over a variety of voltages.
The results were, well, not groundbreaking. It turns out that lettuce seedlings are noisy conductors and their output oscillates. The team found that inputting 12V caused and output of 10V. So, it isn't going to be a case of changing all the electrics in your house for Baby Gem leaves anytime soon, but it certainly shows potential. The whole paper can be read here. [The Registry]