Plant Nanobionics Approach to Augment Photosynthesis and Biochemical Sensing

Nat Mater. 2014 Apr;13(4):400-8. doi: 10.1038/nmat3890. Epub 2014 Mar 16.


The interface between plant organelles and non-biological nanostructures has the potential to impart organelles with new and enhanced functions. Here, we show that single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) passively transport and irreversibly localize within the lipid envelope of extracted plant chloroplasts, promote over three times higher photosynthetic activity than that of controls, and enhance maximum electron transport rates. The SWNT-chloroplast assemblies also enable higher rates of leaf electron transport in vivo through a mechanism consistent with augmented photoabsorption. Concentrations of reactive oxygen species inside extracted chloroplasts are significantly suppressed by delivering poly(acrylic acid)-nanoceria or SWNT-nanoceria complexes. Moreover, we show that SWNTs enable near-infrared fluorescence monitoring of nitric oxide both ex vivo and in vivo, thus demonstrating that a plant can be augmented to function as a photonic chemical sensor. Nanobionics engineering of plant function may contribute to the development of biomimetic materials for light-harvesting and biochemical detection with regenerative properties and enhanced efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / chemistry*
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis / radiation effects
  • Bionics / methods
  • Chloroplasts / chemistry*
  • Chloroplasts / physiology*
  • Chloroplasts / radiation effects
  • Light
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / chemistry*
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / radiation effects
  • Nanotubes, Carbon / ultrastructure
  • Photosynthesis / physiology*
  • Photosynthesis / radiation effects


  • Nanotubes, Carbon