“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.
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.