MM: Using Spinach To Detect Explosives

In this episode, Mercedes works on ear safety with Pink Noise and detecting explosives with spinach.

Using Spinach To Detect Explosives

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently hacked spinach to get it to function as a sensor. The MIT team used carbon nanotubes to give the leafy greens the ability to detect explosives and the wirelessly transmit that information to a wireless device. How you ask?

Well the engineers applied a solution of nanoparticles to the underside of the leaves, allowing them to be absorbed into the plant layer where photosynthesis takes place. The embedded nanotubes then acted as sensors able to detect nitro-aromatic compounds in the groundwater taken in by the plants' roots.

When the compounds are present in the water, the carbon nanotubes in the leaves emit a fluorescent signal that can be picked up with an infrared camera by shining a laser on the leaves. It only takes about ten minutes for the compounds in the water to make it from the plant’s roots to its leaves.

The current technique allows researchers to read a signal from the plants from about one meter away, but work continues to increase that distance. Researchers are also looking into the possibility of bionic plants that receive radio signals or change color.


Could a system like this be used to detect different types of contaminants in ground water? What about using it for an early warning of chemicals leaching into the ground?

Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.

Pink Noise

A new innovation in automotive safety is hoping to keep ears safe in the event of a crash.

Over the years, Mercedes-Benz has been moving vehicle safety forward. In 2002 the company unveiled its Pre-Safe system, which is a series of measures that go into action once the vehicle detects that a crash is inevitable.

These safety measures include tightening seatbelts, puffing up seats and closing windows. All this happens in just 150 milliseconds. (Putting that into context, the blink of an eye is 100 milliseconds)

The latest addition, Pre-Safe sound, has been rolled out in the 2017 E-Class sedan’s intelligent drive package. The system is designed to harness a natural reflex to condition the ear for the noise from an impact and reduce potential hearing damage.

Moments before a crash, the vehicle’s sound system will emit Pink Noise —a combination of all possible tones — at 80 decibels. This primes the ear for a high level of sounds by causing the stapedius muscle in the ears to contract. This restricts high acoustic pressure between the eardrum and inner ear and may even reduce hearing damage.

Mercedes-Benz representatives say that although the system can’t completely prevent the damage caused by an accident, Pre-Safe Sound can help reduce it.


In what other ways do you see Pink Noise technology being used outside of automotive safety? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.

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