web analytics

A New Use of Legos: Growing Plants

Legos: a plant  researcher’s new BFF.


Lego plant. Lego walls hold a transparent growth medium mimicking soil. The versatile setup allows researchers to see how plants respond to increasing levels of nutrients, which are here dyed orange. Image credit: Lind et al / PLOS ONE

It is commonly known that Legos could be used to create various kinds of things such as castles, pirate ships as well as miniature dockyards. However a new study has discovered that they could be also good at working out something totally new, which is to study the growth of plants and the delicate expansion of their roots.

The reason for such new function of Legos explained by the scientists at Iowa State University was that greenhouses were remarkably large all over the globe, but micro-fluidic devices for growing plants and testing their unique growing conditions were really expensive. In this case, Legos could be a good option.

In the report published in the journal PLOS ONE, it was sais that those transparent blocks of the widely enjoyable toy were the perfect choice to create the micro-environments necessary for the study of the plants and their roots, because they were are abundant, inexpensive and easy to re-arrange. And they could be tailor-made with the help of CAD software.

In addition, the Legos could be put into an autoclave, kind of small oven to sanitize lab equipment, for being sterilized without melting, but at the same time they would remain translucent.

Recently the researchers have used Legos in their study and production of images detailing the real-time growth of the roots of garden cress.

The Legos were good at holding a type of agar, the see-through growth medium. Furthermore, the Legos had offered great help to the researchers in studying differences in soil/agar, which was quite difficult to make if using the larger equipment. And they were greatly suitable for creating air pockets, solid barriers between plots, and chemical and microbial gradients, which could clearly demonstrated the way in which roots could react to increasing concentrations of fertilizer.


Image credit: Lind et al / PLOS ONE.

Source: PLOS One