Image of a Venus fly trap by Nicholas Deloitte Media (available under the Pixaby Licence)

Capturing the natural intelligence of plants

11 June 2024

A research team at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has developed a liquid metal-based electronic logic device inspired by the intelligent prey-capture mechanism of Venus fly traps. The plant’s special way of catching food has long been of interest in the field of biological intelligence.

This new device, designed by Dr Shen Yajing from HKUST and Dr Yang Yuanyuan from Xiamen University, exhibits memory and counting properties, allowing it to intelligently respond to various stimulus sequences without the need for additional electronic components. By mimicking the sensory hairs and internal electrical signal accumulation and decay model of Venus fly traps, the device can perceive stimuli, calculate signal accumulation, and exhibit logical functions similar to those of the plant.

Dr Shen and Dr Yang proposed a liquid metal-based logic module (LLM) that uses liquid metal wires in sodium hydroxide solution as the conductive medium. The device controls the length of the liquid metal wires based on electrochemical effects, regulating cathode output according to the stimuli applied. The research, published in Nature Communications, demonstrates the potential applications of LLM in functional circuit integration, filtering, and artificial neural networks. This work, though still at a preliminary stage, provides insights into simulating intelligent behaviours in plants and may serve as a reference for developing biologically inspired intelligent systems.