top of page

Spinach Wants to Send Emails

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

1. What's going on here?

A team of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) scientists engineered spinach to detect chemicals commonly used in explosives. The leafy vegetables are checking and analyzing for these chemicals in the groundwater. If they find any, their leaves will emit a signal and infrared cameras will capture this signal. Finally, the cameras send this information to the scientists, via email.

2. Highlights

- This study was conducted in 2016, but a recent article by Euronews made it viral earlier in 2021.

- The Exact Science: The spinach roots will detect nitroaromatics in the groundwater and will use the carbon nanotubes in their leaves to emit a signal. Infrared cameras nearby will read these signals, and promptly send an email to the scientists.

- In general, plants are very sensitive and responsive to their environment, so there is huge potential to use them as environmental monitors. They could alert us to ecological changes, especially concerning climate change.

- Here's what Professor Micheal Strano, a chemical engineer leading the MIT team, has to say:

"Plants are very good analytical chemists. They have an extensive root network in the soil, are constantly sampling groundwater, and have a way to self-power the transport of that water up into the leaves.”

3. Useful Vocabulary

  1. Plant nanobot technology

  2. Environmental conditions

  3. Ecological development or changes

  4. Infrared cameras

  5. Carbon nanotubes

  6. Detect explosives

  7. Emit signals

4. Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think are some other uses of this new spinach technology?

  2. Do you think that plants will have more real-world applications in the future? Why or why not?

  3. Do you think that this new technology will have a great effect on curbing climate change? Why or why not?

  4. What are some limitations of this new technology?

What are your thoughts on these questions and the article?

Leave your comments down below!

Main Sources

  • Euronews "Scientist have taught spinach to send emails and it cold warm us about climate change."

  • The Guardian "Spam’s new frontier? Now even spinach can send emails."



I love creating free content and resources for English learners everywhere.

Support my work on ko-fi.✨

bottom of page