With normal soil it’s not possible to deeply study roots, which could address issues such as food security, disease transmission and the effects of climate change on plants. To solve the problem a team of researchers from the James Hutton Institute and the University of Abertay Dundee have developed a see-through soil that helps them study the world of plant roots, called rhizosphere.
The process wasn’t easy, and it doesn’t seem to be so too. The team took two years to find and develop the nearly transparent soil that perfectly replicates the chemistry of natural soil allowing plants to grow in it. The soil is based on the use of a synthetic composite called Nafion that was developed by DuPont in the 1960s. The material, which is now used in modern fuel cells, is saturated with a water-based solution to become almost see-through.
The soil allows researchers to better understand the process of root growth to monitor the development process of plants that are better suited for a wide variety of soil conditions.