Spinach can send emails now, and Twitter is in disbeleaf

Kerry Breen
·3 min read

Spinach has always been a superfood: It works well in just about any dish, it's nutritious and it's incredibly easy to make.

As if that weren't enough, the leafy green might now be capable of sending emails warning humans about climate change and explosive materials.

According to a study published in Nature Materials, a scientific journal that focuses on science and engineering, engineers at MIT developed a method to transform spinach sensors that are capable of detecting explosive materials: When the roots of the plant detect compounds found in explosives in groundwater, carbon nanotubes within the plant leaves send a signal to an infrared camera. That camera then sends an email alert to scientists monitoring the area.

According to Euronews, which first reported on the study, the technology researchers used is known as "plant nanobionics," which the publication defines as "the process of giving plants new abilities."

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Professor Michael Strano, who led the research, told the outlet that plants "are very good analytical chemists" and said the experiment was a "novel demonstration of how we have overcome the plant/human communication barrier."

He said that the process could also be used to warn scientists about pollution and environmental changes since plants are constantly absorbing a "vast amount of data" from their surroundings.

"Plants are very environmentally responsive," Strano told EuroNews. "They know that there is going to be a drought long before we do. They can detect small changes in the properties of soil and water potential. If we tap into those chemical signalling pathways, there is a wealth of information to access."

On social media, many were baffled by the experiment. The research was actually conducted in 2016, but Euronews' reporting on the topic led to it trending on Twitter as people imagined just what sort of messages they might get from the nutrient-rich vegetable.

Some joked that the plant might keep learning and start using other social media platforms.

Others said that the plant was now more technologically advanced than some of their loved ones — or more productive than they are themselves.

Now, we're just sitting here imagining spinach's out-of-office reply: "Leaf me alone."