A team of MIT researchers managed to put a tree on a chip, calling it a tree-on-a-chip device. This new technology could help specialists enhance hydraulics in small robots. Moreover, maybe this development might help scientists power robots with sugar cubes. In 2016, the excitement of implementing chips on everything lead engineers to develop a heart on a chip, a kidney on a chip, a placenta on a chip and a lung on a chip.
Specialists built a tree on a chip which could help them revolutionize small robots
Scientists can test different treatments and run several experiments when creating elements from biology on chips. All these tests would not be possible if it were not for these models on chips. The tree on a chip helped MIT researchers imitate the natural pumps of substances inside plants and trees. This revolutionary device is capable of triggering the movement of fluids without making use of any mechanical parts or external power source.
The three on a chip imitates the channels in trees which fill the skin, being called xylem. These channels are bound to draw water up, spreading it in the tree. There are also other channels called phloem used to store nutrients and sugar. Water is drawn up the xylem, being carried into the phloem, passing through a semipermeable membrane. This process is called osmosis. This flow of water goes down through the phloem, bringing nutrients to the roots.
The device managed to work for several days without an external power source
Even if, in the past, scientists managed to build such trees on chips, they never lasted more than few minutes because they stopped pumping the water and the nutrients. Without a steady source of sugar, like the one produced by the leaves, the balance between sugar and water is interrupted. To prevent the disruption of osmosis, researchers decided to simulate phloem and xylem channels by making some drills into plastic slides. The xylem channel contained water, while the phloem one was filled with sugar and water.
These two channels were separated by a membrane which was semipermeable. Scientists decided to place another layer over the phloem channel. Also, they had put a sugar cube above it to reproduce the quantity of sugar obtained through photosynthesis. Then, the chip was stuck to a tube to permit the system to carry water out from a tank.
The amazing study had positive outcomes since the chip managed to passively pump the water through itself and then out at a constant rate for several days.
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