New program envisions plants as discreet, self-sustaining sensors capable of reporting via remotely monitored, programmed responses to environmental stimuli
To meet this demand, the Department of Defense invests heavily in the development of powerful electronic and mechanical sensors, and in the manpower to maintain and operate those sensors. DARPA has been involved on the research side of the equation since the Agency’s earliest days, developing technologies such as the VELA satellites and seismographs to ensure Soviet compliance with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Today, nearly sixty years later, the need for information is no less urgent, but the national security landscape has grown far more complex and the challenges of monitoring distributed activity far more complicated. The military’s traditional sensors are not always optimal for the task.
Fortunately, nature, the master of complexity, offers potential solutions. DARPA’s new Advanced Plant Technologies (APT) program looks to seemingly simple plants as the next generation of intelligence gatherers. The program will pursue technologies to engineer robust, plant-based sensors that are self-sustaining in their environment and can be remotely monitored using existing hardware.
DARPA’s vision for APT is to harness plants’ natural mechanisms for sensing and responding to environmental stimuli and extend them to detect the presence of certain chemicals, pathogens, radiation, and even electromagnetic signals. APT aims to modify the genomes of plants in order to program in these specific types of sensing and trigger discreet response mechanisms in the presence of relevant stimuli, and do so in a way that does not compromise the plants’ ability to thrive. If the program is successful, it will deliver a new sensing platform that is energy independent, robust, stealthy, and easily distributed. Such sensors could find application outside of the military too, making it possible, for instance, for communities to safely identify landmines or unexploded ordinance leftover from past conflicts or testing grounds.
“Plants are highly attuned to their environments and naturally manifest physiological responses to basic stimuli such as light and temperature, but also in some cases to touch, chemicals, pests, and pathogens,” said Blake Bextine, the DARPA Program Manager for APT. “Emerging molecular and modeling techniques may make it possible to reprogram these detection and reporting capabilities for a wide range of stimuli, which would not only open up new intelligence streams, but also reduce the personnel risks and costs associated with traditional sensors.”
APT aims to go far beyond current practice, which tends to pursue only a minimal number of modifications. DARPA’s goal is to modify multiple and complex traits to give plants new capabilities that enable them to sense and report on numerous stimuli. To succeed, however, the program must also address how modified plants allocate internal resources and compete in natural environments. Past experiments of this type have reduced the fitness of modified plants by siphoning resources needed to sustain the plants. APT will seek to improve how plants collect and distribute resources, and optimize their fitness so that modified plants thrive despite anticipated interactions with natural stressors such as microbes, animals, insects, and other plants.
“Advanced Plant Technologies is a synthetic biology program at heart, and as with DARPA’s other work in that space, our goal is to develop an efficient, iterative system for designing, building, and testing models so that we end up with a readily adaptable platform capability that can be applied to a wide range of scenarios,” said Bextine.
It will be up to the researchers proposing to APT to determine which plants, stimuli, and modifications to pursue as proofs of concept.
Initial work on the program will take place in contained laboratory and greenhouse facilities, as well as simulated natural environments, and adhere to all applicable federal regulations with additional oversight from institutional biosafety committees. If the research is successful, later-phase field trials would take place under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service following all standard protocols for plant biosafety.
APT will rely on existing ground-, air-, and space-based technology to remotely monitor plant reporting. Such systems are already capable of measuring plants’ temperature, chemical composition, reflectance, and body plan, among other qualities, from a standoff distance. The APT program will not fund development of new hardware for this purpose.
DARPA will hold a Proposers Day for APT on December 12, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia. The registration deadline is December 6, 2017. A detailed Special Notice is available at: https://go.usa.gov/xnB4M. Registration is available at: https://events.sa-meetings.com/APTProposersDay.
Full program details will be made available in a forthcoming Broad Agency Announcement.
The Latest on: Self-sustaining sensors
- Chances Of Collisions Involving Urgently Underway Police Cars And AI Self-Driving Carson August 27, 2021 at 8:30 am
Regrettably there are going to be instances of urgently underway police cars that collide with self-driving cars, though there are means to try and reduce those chances.
- trailerduck is a self-powered trailer that can handle a payload of up to 300 kgon August 26, 2021 at 7:08 am
light electric vehicles (LEV) are an approach to implement sustainable urban and industrial ... emission-free and 100% electric equipped with sensors, the trailerduck features a follow-me ...
- Preventing injury one “bend and lift” at a timeon August 25, 2021 at 12:04 pm
It works by monitoring users’ movements in real time via a small sensor clipped to the worker’s shirt or vest (typically at the shoulder or the back of the neck). Using AI and machine learning, the ...
- Kyocera and Nagasaki University Develop "Energy Harvesting Smart Buoy" to Collect Ocean Dataon August 25, 2021 at 5:06 am
Nagasaki University (President: Shigeru Kohno) and Kyocera Corporation (President: Hideo Tanimoto) announced their joint development of an Energy Harvesting Smart Buoy, which combines Nagasaki ...
- Smallest biosupercapacitor provides energy for biomedical applicationson August 24, 2021 at 8:07 am
In addition, three nBSCs connected in series with the sensor enable particularly efficient and self-sufficient pH measurement.
- Cognitive Lasers: Combining Artificial Intelligence with Laser Weapon Systemson August 24, 2021 at 3:00 am
Emerging Technologies Topic Week By Dr. Bonnie Johnson The Advent of Laser Weapon Systems Presents a Highly Complex Decision Space The Navy is advancing rapidly with the development and ...
- Flex operates in China through sustainable approachon August 23, 2021 at 7:54 pm
Flex serves customers across wide-ranging industries, and its expertise and innovations duly reflect this breadth. From smart consumer wearables to green energy management systems, innovations are ...
- Tiny biosupercapacitor - smaller than a speck of dust, voltage like an AAA batteryon August 23, 2021 at 3:28 am
Researchers demonstrate the smallest microsupercapacitors to date, which already functions in (artificial) blood vessels and can be used as an energy source for a tiny sensor system to measure pH.
- Tesla Sells ‘Full Self-Driving,’ but What Is It Really?on August 20, 2021 at 5:13 pm
Over the years, Tesla owners have paid as much as $10,000 for the package, called Full Self-Driving ... First they equip ordinary cars with lidar sensors — “light detection and ranging ...
- Navigating Self-Driving Cars By Looking At What’s Underneath The Roadon August 20, 2021 at 5:00 pm
The maximum precision of 30 centimeters, while more than sufficient ... LGPR sensors to determine their position. Whether or not this LGPR technology will be the breakthrough that self-driving ...
via Google News and Bing News