Friday, February 18, 2011

Plants on Security Duty - Kelby Fruecht

Plant Security

I. Introduction

Imagine if you were walking in an airport and all you had to do was check-in and buy your tickets to be able to just jump right on a plane. Imagine if we no longer had to go through airport security in order to get on a plane. Well, even though this may seem impossible to do without jeopardizing our own safety, just recently there has been a break through that might change the way security operates not only in airports, but also in government buildings, schools, and any other facility or place that would require more security to ensure our safety. The answer to this question is a plant. Not just any type of plant, but a plant genetically engineered to identify and notice when a bomb is nearby or in the same area where the plant is planted.

II. Discovery

So you may be asking just how it’s possible for a plant to replace the security that checks our bags in airports. Well, the answer lies with changing the genetics of the plant. Professors and Scientist at Colorado State University have discovered a way to change the genetics of the plant making it capable of turning white when TNT and other explosive odors are sensed in the air. Head Professor June Medford states, “Plants can’t run or hide from threats, so they’ve developed sophisticated systems to detect and respond to their environment.” They were able to take the plant and alter the genetics of the chromosomes and “program” the plant to turn white when it senses the explosive material in the air. They made the plant so when it does sense TNT or other bomb material; it triggers the plant to drain all of the chlorophyll out of the chloroplast, which is the green pigment found inside of plants and is also used in photosynthesis. The benefits of having these types of plants as part of are security are more beneficial than you would suspect. While having a bomb-sniffing dog that cost thousands of dollars in order for the dog to be trained, taking care of the dog with food expenses, and also paying for a cop to be at the airport is really expensive. They also aren’t capable of covering every single area of the airport and most importantly is that a dog isn’t 100% accurate. There are some times when the dog accidentally doesn’t detect the scent either because the dog was temporarily distracted or the smell wasn’t strong enough. As for the plant, it is predicted that each of these plants will only cost about a few cents! What is also remarkable about the plant is that they are 100 times more sensitive than the

nose of a dog!

Here is a video link to a good overview video:

Below is a picture of Prototype Plant Sentiels:

III. Biography of Investigator

The Investigator of discovering this capability is Professor June Medford. She is currently a professor at Colorado State University where she made this discovery in plant genetics. She earned her Ph. D. for Synthetic Biology at Yale University. While the research of this new plant to complete the plant characteristic is underway, Medford confidently believes that the research and understanding of the plant will be completed in just three years. Her goal is to make the plant not only react faster, but also make the plant capable of reacting to more than one substance. With a 7.9 million dollar fund from U.S. Defense administration, the goal of perfecting the plant could come true. Although she is a new face in the science community media, she definitely will be heard of in the years to come once this genetically enhanced plant is perfected.

IV. Impact on the World/Humanity

The link below is to an AWESOME video that shows how this new discovery can change the world! Must Watch!!

This new invention of changing the genetics of a plant can change our world forever. We would no longer have to spend the unnecessary amounts of money in order to keep us safe from possible terrorist attacks and bomb threats. Every single airport in the world would be able to have a biological security that will not only ensure the safety of countries whose airports are vulnerable to bomb penetration because they aren’t able to afford the modern security that the United States has set the bar for. This security innovation has the possibility to lowering the price of your next plane ticket because flight companies would no longer have to pay for the type of security you see at our airports. We would no longer have to pay for this extra expense on the flight ticket. These plants might find its way in our airports in the next few years. This breakthrough could possibly be the answer to not only a safer world, but also a more affordable one as well.

V. Journal Article Review

The Huffington Post looked like a reliable source for the information that I found on my topic. I also confirmed its information from other reliable sources and was able to compile the right information about this new discovery. Although it isn’t too big of a source, it gave me a good grasp of the general overall idea of this genetically changed plant. I thought this was a good topic because it totally ties in with what we are learning in class and Professor Medford and this new invention is a prime example of how we can apply what we learn in the class room to invent things that we never thought possible.


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