Project 2010: Testing Data Transfer Over Plant Roots






This was my first science fair project and although it's not a brain interface project, I did see "Avatar" and the Tree of Souls that was featured. I wondered if you really could have a plant or tree that had a data bus like a motherboard.  It turns out that data can be transferred over plant roots!




Before and since the advent of the internet, many different ways of communication between two computers have been used, including fiber-optic, copper cable, microwave, wireless and others.  Many other novel ideas for sending data over other media (such as brine-soaked string) have been tested with positive results.  Plants and plant roots have been shown to be conducive to the transmission of electrical signals, but have largely been studied for self-generated electrical signaling.


In past experiments it has been found that certain plants send their own messages using special chemical signals, in order to warn other plants of predators or changing environmental conditions.  This phenomenon occurs with strawberries, clover and reeds, as well as many other plants. 


This experiment investigates the data transfer over plant roots where the data transmission is initiated by an outside source – in this case the serial port of a personal computer.  The practical application of this may be to monitor the effects of environmental factors such as disease, parasites and weather patterns on farms, forests and greenhouses with probes that would send and receive data in various locations in a targeted environment of interest.  Data could be transmitted via the plant root systems themselves and changes in their throughput could indicate the health of the environment.  Wireless probes could be placed in one location and collect and transmit data collected via the roots of the surrounding area, improving the statistical analysis of environmental probes and ultimately causing fewer to be used.