man opening shirt to reveal robot man opening shirt to reveal robot It's only a matter of time until the suits take over. Literally, the suits. (Photo: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock)

How scientists are turning cotton into superpowered cyborgs

A team of researchers just made cotton glow and turn magnetic. This feels like the beginning of a sci-fi thriller.

Something strange is going on in laboratories that could result in either awesome sci-fi clothing or omniscient robot T-shirts that take over humanity. Only time will tell.

A team of scientists from the Weizmann Institute in Israel, the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the Institute of Physics in Austria found a way to make cotton magnetic and glowing. I'm not talking about adding glowing dye or magnets to cotton cloth. The researchers actually tricked cotton plants into eating substances that gave them all these weird powers.

The scientists started by mixing sugar with a fluorescent molecule. They bathed the part of the plant that becomes the seed (the plant womb, if you will), in this mixture. When the seeds grew up into plants, and the plants turned into cotton, the cotton glowed.

DJ girl in glow-in-the-dark clthingAt the very least, this all could result in some pretty cool raver threads. (Photo: Dubassy/Shutterstock)

The scientists, naturally, got all curious and tried using a magnetic metal instead of the fluorescent molecule. The fabric that came out of these plants was magnetic.

Now you might be thinking, "OK, so that's kind of cool, I guess. But what's the big deal? I already have a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt." The big deal is whatever comes next. If scientists are making cotton magnetic in the womb today, then you just know something way more Transformers-y is coming tomorrow. My money's on cotton armor – super strong cotton that can repel bullets.

"Combining biological systems with the appropriate molecular design offers numerous possibilities to grow functional composite materials and implements a material-farming concept," write the scientists. That means they're finding new ways to give plants robot superpowers.

I don't know about you, but while I always half-expected to get taken over by intelligent robots, I never imagined an army of cyber socks kicking down my door and imprisoning me in a detergent factory. And you know what that means: they've got the element of surprise.


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