Bomb-detecting plants receive federal grant

FT. COLLINS, CO (CBS) - Soon plants could be working in the front lines of terrorism defense by acting as explosive detectors.

Researchers at the University of Colorado dunk the plants in a custom made bacteria that changes the plant genetically to make it sensitive to anything, from TNT to Radon.

"If this plant would sense an explosive or an environmental pollutant, it would turn white," Biology Professor June Medford said.

She said right now the plants take a couple of hours to begin turning white, but with more research and kind of plant could be altered to change color in minutes or possibly seconds.

"You can do it for a lot of other plant species, but it's not quite as simple as this," researcher Pete Bowerman said.

Medford said the plants can detect multiple substances or change different colors.

Security at places like airports could have an entirely different look if plants are doing the screening.

"Instead of that nasty line at DIA that can wind on forever and ever and ever, you would go through a beautiful garden area," Medford said. "Now in my garden area we would have a variety of plants that would detect a variety of those nasty things that a terrorist might take in."

She said cameras could detect the color changes automatically to alert security.

The idea is so promising that the lab recently received 8 million dollars from the Department of Defense to continue research.

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