Now, Cornell University researchers have developed a microfluidic water sensor within a fingertip-sized silicon chip that is a hundred times more sensitive than current devices. The researchers are now completing soil tests and will soon test their design in plants, embedding their “lab on a chip” in the stems of grape vines, for example. They hope to mass produce the sensors for as little as $5 each.
In soil or when inserted into a plant stem, the chip is fitted with wires that can be hooked up to a card for wireless data transmission or is compatible with existing data-loggers. Chips may be left in place for years, though they may break in freezing temperatures. Such inexpensive and accurate sensors can be strategically spaced in plants and soil for accurate measurements in agricultural fields.
For example, sophisticated vintners use precise irrigation to put regulated water stress on grapevines to create just the right grape composition for a premium cabernet or a chardonnay wine. While growers can use the sensors to monitor water in soils for their crops, civil engineers can embed these chips in concrete to determine optimal moisture levels as the concrete cures.
“One of our goals is to try and develop something that is not only a great improvement, but also much cheaper for growers and others to use,” said Alan Lakso, professor of horticulture, who has been working on water sensing for 20 years.
The sensors make use of microfluidic technology – developed by Abraham Stroock, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering – that places a tiny cavity inside the chip. The cavity is filled with water, and then the chip may be inserted in a plant stem or in the soil where it, through a nanoporous membrane, exchanges moisture with its environment and maintains an equilibrium pressure that the chip measures.
Using chips embedded in plants or spaced across soil and linked wirelessly to computers, for example, growers may “control the precise moisture of blocks of land, based on target goals,” said Vinay Pagay, who helped develop the chip as a doctoral student in Lakso’s lab.
Ernest and Julio Gallo Winery and Welch’s juice company have already expressed interest in the sensors. And Cornell civil engineer Ken Hover has started working with Pagay and Lakso on using the sensors in concrete.
The researchers seek to understand how values gathered from sensors inside a plant and in soils relate to plant growth and function, so that growers can translate sensor values and optimize management.
The Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization is handling the intellectual property rights and patents.
Cornell University has television and ISDN radio studios available for media interviews.
Melissa Osgood | Newswise
Microjet generator for highly viscous fluids
13.02.2018 | Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Sweet route to greater yields
08.02.2018 | Rothamsted Research
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy