24 September 2018
Attachable sensors for monitoring plant growth
Published online 12 September 2018
The sensors can also monitor humidity and temperature.
A team from Saudi Arabia has designed flexible, butterfly-shaped, attachable sensors that can measure plant growth, humidity and temperature.
The lightweight and stretchable sensors can easily be placed on the stems or leaves of plants, and on soil, according to the researchers.
“These sensors can correlate the effects of humidity and temperature with plant growth; information that is important for increasing crop yields,” says electronics engineer Muhammad M. Hussain from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
The sensors could help identify optimum growth conditions for individual plants, even in harsh environments, he adds.
The attachable monitoring system was made by integrating strain, humidity and temperature sensors with a rechargeable battery, a memory chip, and a device that wirelessly sends data to a smartphone.
The strain sensor was made by depositing a thin film of gold onto a stretchable biocompatible polymer. The humidity and temperature sensors were made using a different polymer.
When the strain sensors were placed on barley leaves, they were able to record how long the leaves lengthened in a period of just under three hours. The sensors were also able to measure bamboo stem elongation over a period of a day.
The team also converted their sensors into ‘plantcopters’ that landed safely on the ground after generating temperature data while free falling from a two-storey building. They could potentially be used to monitor temperature and humidity in crop fields.
Nassar, J. M. et al. Compliant plant wearables for localized microclimate and plant growth monitoring. NPJ Flexible Electron. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41528-018-0039-8 (2018).