CSU Gets Grant For Bomb-Detecting Vegetation

January 26, 2011 9:01 PM

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado State University has received and $8 million grant from the Department of Defense. They’ll use the money in hopes of growing plants to detect explosives in shopping malls or airports.

Researchers at CSU say they’re finding that plants are at least as good, maybe better, than dogs at sniffing out things like explosives and dangerous chemical weapons. Landscaping plants, for example, can look really nice, but also be programmed to change color when there’s danger in the air.

“If this plant would sense an explosive or an environmental pollutant, it would turn white,” CSU biology professor Dr. June Medford said. “It’s a little slow (right now).”

Medford says right now the plants take a couple hours to begin turning white, but she says with more research any kind of plant could be altered to change color in minutes or possibly seconds.

“You can do it for a lot of other plant species, but it’s not quite as simple as this,” CSU researcher Pete Bowerman said.

Researchers dunk the plants in custom-made bacteria that changes the plant genetically to make it sensitive to anything from TNT to radon.

“They can detect multiple substances and they can turn different colors,” Medford said.
Go CAM!


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