It’s Strong to the Finich, this Bomb-Sniffing Spinach


Popeye always turned to spinach when he needed help. Now scientists are doing the same to help detect land mines and other explosives. (Forbes)

Spinach is a lot more expendable than the usual mine-clearing staff. Find out why with our resources.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Discussion Ideas


  • How are the plastic and carbon nanoparticles attached to three-week-old spinach plants?
    • The bombolitin-decorated nanotubes are injected into the spinach leaves with a needle-less syringe.





  • What factor might slow the development of “bomb-sniffing” spinach?
    • “One potential complicating factor is pesticides, some of which are also nitroaromatics … one possible solution is adding more different types of nanoparticles that could give a more complete picture of what molecules the plants are taking up.”


  • How else might the application of nanotechnology be used?
    • “The group is already looking beyond explosives to other types of compounds plants could detect. Strano says his lab is working on nanoparticles to detect dozens of different molecules like pharmaceuticals or pollutants in the same way these spinach plants sense nitroaromatics.”


Spinach really is a superfood. Photograph by MabelAmber, courtesy Pixabay. Public domain

Spinach really is a superfood.
Photograph by MabelAmber, courtesy Pixabay. Public domain


Forbes: Bomb Sniffing Spinach Plants

Nat Geo: Mine-Clearing is Women’s Work study guide

Nat Geo: How the Nanoscale Measures Up activity

Nat Geo: Carbon Nanotubes photo

(extra credit!) Nature Materials: Nitroaromatic detection and infrared communication from wild-type plants using plant nanobionics

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