Future houseplants could serve as subtle alarms of something amiss in the home and office environments.
Houseplants, generally known for adding beauty to your house with foliage and flowers, can now be aesthetically pleasing and functional sirens of home health.
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Tennessee explored the future of houseplants to serve as subtle alarms of something amiss in the home and office environments.
The authors pointed out that several environmentally relevant photosensors have been designed by using biotechnology. Genetic engineering has also grown into a whole new field of study called synthetic biology, which is the design and construction of new biological entities or systems.
Synthetic biology is a valuable tool for agricultural production, allowing farmers to grow plants designed to resist drought or certain pests. Such plants 'glow' when viewed with specifically designed filters.
The researchers studied the concept of applying synthetic biology to houseplants beyond aesthetic reasons, like larger blooms or variegated foliage.
"Houseplants are ubiquitous in our home environments. Through the tools of synthetic biology it's possible for us to engineer houseplants that can serve as architectural design elements that are both pleasing to our senses and that function as early sensors of environmental agents that could harm our health, like mould, radon gas or high concentrations of volatile organic compounds," explained Neal Stewart, co-author of the study.
He also explained that the plant biosensors could be designed to react to harmful agents in any number of ways, such as gradually changing the colour of their foliage or through the use of fluorescence.
"Our work should result in an interior environment that is more responsive to overall health and well-being of its occupants while continuing to provide the benefits plants bring to people every day," the authors added.