Home NEWSCITY TALKS Swedish Scientists Develop Electrically-Conducive Soil

Swedish Scientists Develop Electrically-Conducive Soil

by Web Desk
Electrically-Conducive Soil

It has now been scientifically proven that barley seedlings grow on average 50% more.
when their root system is stimulated electrically through a new cultivation substrate.
Published in the journal PNAS, researchers from Linköping University have detailed
how they have developed an electrically conductive soil” for soilless cultivation,
known as hydroponics, that enables the process.

The human population across the world is increasing. We also need to deal with climate change.
change. So, it’s clear that we won’t be able to cover the food demands of the planet.
with just the existing agricultural methods. However, with hydroponics, we can grow
food even in urban environments in very controlled settings,” said Eleni Stavrinidou.
associate professor at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University,
and leader of the Electronic Plants group.

Her research group has now developed an electrically conductive cultivation substrate.
that is customized for hydroponic cultivation. This “soil-ess soil” has been named eSoil.
Researchers at Linköping University, a leading academic institution in Sweden, have
shown that barley seedlings grown in the conductive soil” grew up to 50% more in 15
days when their roots were stimulated electrically.

Notably, hydroponic cultivation means that plants are grown without soil, needing only
water, nutrients, and a substance their roots can attach to—called a “substrate.” It is a
closed and controlled system that enables water recirculation so that each seedling
gets exactly the nutrients it needs. Therefore, very little water is required for this.
process, and all nutrients remain in the system, a phenomenon that is not possible in
traditional cultivation.

Through hydroponics, it is also possible to create vertical cultivation in large towers to
maximize space efficiency. Crops already being cultivated in this manner include
lettuce, herbs, spinach, and some vegetables. Grains are not typically grown in
hydroponics apart for their use as fodder.

In the study at the university, researchers have shown that barley seedlings can be
cultivated using hydroponics, and that they have a better growth rate thanks to
electrical stimulation.

In this way, we can get seedlings to grow faster with fewer resources. We don't yet
know how it actually works and which biological mechanisms are exactly involved.
What we have discovered is that seedlings process nitrogen more effectively, but it’s
not clear yet how electrical stimulation impacts this process,” said Stavrinidou.

New ‘soil’ Scores Better Than Many Common Substrates

Mineral wool is often used as a cultivation substrate in hydroponics. This material is
not only non-biodegradable but it is also produced using a very energy-intensive
process. On the other hand, the electronic cultivation substrate, eSoil, is made of
cellulose, which is the most abundant biopolymer, mixed with a conductive polymer
called PEDOT, which is a polymer mixture. This combination is not new, but it is the
For the first time, it is being used for the cultivation of plants, creating an interface in this

Hydroponics Research Will Open New Pathways

Previous research has used high voltage to stimulate the roots. The advantage of
eSoil is that it has very low energy consumption and no high voltage danger.
Stavrinidou believes that the new study will open the pathway for new research areas.
to enhance hydroponics.

We can’t say that hydroponics will solve the entire problem of food security. However,
It can definitely help, particularly in areas with little arable land and harsh environmental conditions," she adds.

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