COLLEGE
01/27/2011 12:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bomb-Detecting Plants? Colorado State Prof June Medford Develops Explosive-Detecting Greenery

Colorado State University Biologist Dr. June Medford is working to develop the next big thing in security systems -- bomb-detecting plants.

On Wednesday, Medford and fellow researchers from Colorado State and Duke University published a paper outlining the progress they've made in genetically engineering any plant to change color upon detecting airborne toxins and explosives.

Medford explained to Wired that plants already have DNA receptors that react to threatening stimuli. Her goal is to manipulate plant protein to respond to chemicals in explosives and common pollutants by draining chlorophyll -- or turning white.

And with the aid of millions of dollars in funding from the National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Office of Naval Research and Defense Threat Reduction Agency, these plant sentinels -- as Medford describes them -- can be used to detect bombs in airports and public spaces, in addition to exposing pollutants around homes and schools.

But you can expect to wait a few years before more invasive technologies are replaced by vigilant greenery. Although investors hope to implement the creative system in as little as three years, Medford predicts a more conservative five to seven years before limitations, like a potential inability to detect TNT, are worked through.

Below, check out the Medford Lab's dramatic representation of what plant sentinels can do, and how they do it:

What do you think of this nifty scientific advance? Let us know in the comments section!

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