10 January 2022

Incorporating electronic and responsive materials in plant cells in order to produce composites that maintain the living properties of cells and, in the long term, create sustainable systems using nature’s own methods is the focus of her project.

Eleni Stavrinidou
Eleni Stavrinidou Thor Balkhed
Eleni Stavrinidou, senior lecturer and principal investigator at Electronic Plants at Linköping University’s Laboratory of Organic Electronics is awarded approximately EUR 1.5 million (approx. SEK 15 million) from the European Research Council, ERC, as an ERC Starting Grant.

“What a fantastic way to round off 2021”, she said just before Christmas, on receiving the news about the prestigious ERC Starting Grant

One of the aims of Eleni Stavrinidous’ project, called 4D-PhytoHybrid – plant-based 4D biohybrid systems, is to use photosynthesis and the plant cells’ own processes, along with organic electronics, to create completely new biohybrid systems with living properties such as growth, responsiveness, and adaptability.
Another aim is to create a European hub for research based on plants’ natural processes, or as the application reads, to develop the next-generation technology based on photosynthetic biohybrid systems.

First in the world

Eleni Stavrinidous’ research at Linköping University has resulted in a number of high-profile breakthroughs and publications. In 2015 she showed that electronic circuits can be produced inside the vascular system of a rose, which made the news worldwide. To summarise, the conducting polymer PEDOT is absorbed into the rose’s vascular system, forming electronic conductors which can, among other things, be used to build transistors.

In work published in 2017, she showed that an oligomer, ETE-S, is polymerised inside the plant, forming electric conductors that can store energy. In the experiments at the time, the plants did not survive long after the treatment, but in an article published in the autumn of 2021, she and her research team got living, productive bean plants to store energy.

Stiff competition

This year’s ERC Starting Grant is the first round of funding from the new programme Horizon Europe. As in previous years the competition was stiff; of 4000 applicants, 397 were successful, being awarded a total of EUR 619 million.

The aim of the ERC Starting Grant is to enable talented young researchers to continue to develop their work at European research institutions, and to encourage promising young researchers from outside the EU to work inside Europe. Of this year’s grants, 13 went to researchers who have previously worked in the United States.

Two researchers connect a beaker of water to some wires.

Electronic “soil” enhances crop growth

Barley seedlings grow on average 50% more when their root system is stimulated electrically through a new cultivation substrate.  LiU-researchers have developed an electrically conductive “soil” for hydroponics.

Eleni Stavrinidou

She combines plants and technology for a sustainable future

Eleni Stavrinidou is principal investigator at Electronic plants at Linköping University’s Laboratory of Organic Electronics. Her vision is to develop technologies that will enable new discoveries in plant biology.

Two women, Dr Eleni Stavrinidou and PhD student Daniela Parker, holding the biohybrid plant.

Storing energy in plants with electronic roots

By watering bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris) with a solution that contains conjugated oligomers, researchers at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, have shown that the roots of the plant become electrically conducting and can store energy.

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