The interface of nanomaterials and plants is an emerging and exciting area of investigation. Our group synthesizes and functionalizes nanoparticles and nanoparticle-biomolecule conjugates to (i) probe plant systems, (ii) augment plant function, and (iii) deliver cargoes to plants. Plants present a challenging system to study and probe due to their dense optical and physical properties: autofluorescence of chlorophyll pigments limiting optical imaging of plant systems, and the intricate plant vasculature and the plant cell wall limiting the delivery of nutrients and genome editing tools. The unique optical and tunable physical properties of nanomaterials can be leveraged to overcome the limitations of traditional imaging and delivery methods for plant systems.
Our previous work has shown that stomatal infiltration of near-infrared emissive functionalized nanoparticles can passively diffuse into plant vasculature, through the cell wall into the plant cells, and even through an additional two lipid bilayers into the plant chloroplast. We focus on exploring strategies to synthesize nanomaterials (emulsions, encapsulation, electrostatic, and covalent functionalization of nanoparticles) for delivery to plant systems. Our aims are to identify which nanoparticle parameters optimize delivery of biological and nutrient cargoes through the many plant barriers. Our final aims are to accomplish the delivery of genetic cargoes to mature plants, deliver sensors to plants to image metabolites implicated in plant-fungal interactions, and to increase nutrient delivery and uptake to plant systems.
See the press coverage of our work interfacing nanomaterials with plants:
Scientists: Gozde Demirer, Roger Chang