Tiny graphene sensors, which the researchers are calling “plant tattoo sensors,” are being taped to the leaves of plants, looking quite a bit like tattoos indeed. The sensors transmit data to the researchers about how quickly plants are moving water from their roots to their leaves and then releasing the water into the air.
“With a tool like this, we can begin to breed plants that are more efficient in using water,” said plant scientist Patrick Schnable. “That’s exciting. We couldn’t do this before. But, once we can measure something, we can begin to understand it.”
The research was documented in a paper entitled “High-Resolution Patterning and Transferring of Graphene-Based Nanomaterials onto Tape toward Roll-to-Roll Production of Tape-Based Wearable Sensors,” which you can access here.
The graphene-on-tape technology has already been used for other applications such as smart gloves, flexible mechanical sensors and sensor arrays.
The first step in the process is to use either molding or 3D printing to create indented patterns on the surface of a polymer block. A liquid graphene solution is then applied to the block, filling in the indented patterns. The excess graphene is removed with tape, and then another strip of tape is used to lift away the graphene patterns, creating a strip of sensors on the tape. The process can create patterns as small as five millionths of a meter wide, or one-twentieth the width of a human hair. According to Dong, the smaller the sensors are, the more sensitive they are.
“We’re trying to make sensors that are cheaper and still high performing,” said Liang Dong, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
It sounds easy, and it is – and it’s also inexpensive, fulfilling the researchers’ goal of making cheap, high-performing sensors.
“This fabrication process is very simple,” Dong said. “You just use tape to manufacture these sensors. The cost is just cents.”
For the plant tattoos, graphene oxide is used because of its sensitivity to water vapor. The presence of water vapor changes the material’s conductivity, which can be used to measure transpiration, or the release of water vapor, from the leaf. The plant sensors have been successfully tested in lab and pilot field experiments, and a new three-year, $472,363 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative will allow for more field testing of water transport in corn plants.
The Iowa State University Research Foundation has applied for a patent on the technology, and granted an option to commercialize the technology to EnGeniousAg, a startup formed by several of the researchers.
“The most exciting application of the tape-based sensors we’ve tested so far is the plant sensor,” Dong said. “The concept of wearable electronic sensors for plants is brand new. And the plant sensors are so tiny they can detect transpiration from plants, but they won’t affect plant growth or crop production.”
The technology could be used for many other applications, however, including sensors for biomedical diagnostics, checking the structural integrity of buildings, monitoring the environment or testing crops for diseases or pesticides.
Authors of the paper include Seval Oren, Halil Ceylan, Patrick S. Schnable and Liang Dong.
Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Source: Iowa State University]
You May Also Like
3D Printing News Briefs, July 22, 2021: XJet, TPM & Duncan Parnell, Seurat, FedDev Ontario & University of Waterloo, Tata Technologies & Stratasys, US Marine Corps, Nexa3D, INTAMSYS, Shell, ORNL & Local Motors
We’re sharing plenty of business news with you today in this edition of 3D Printing News Briefs, starting with two new executive appointments at XJet and TPM’s acquisition of Duncan...
3D Printed Shark Fin Replicas Enable Conservation and Education
The practice of shark finning has said to have increased due to demand for these appendages for soup and traditional medicines in the Asia-Pacific region. Estimates put the value of...
SPEE3D’s 3D Printed Rocket Engine Project Gets AU$1.5M in Government Funding
Australian metal 3D printing company SPEE3D will receive more than AU$1.5 million ($1.1 million) in government funding to realize one of its most ambitious projects. Through its SPAC3D proposal, SPEE3D...
3D Printing News Briefs, July 8, 2021: Sintavia, 6K, Nexa3D, Marotta Controls, CRP Technology, HILOS, Angled, ETH Zurich, Jalopnik
In today’s edition of 3D Printing News Briefs, we’re starting off with some business and then moving on to materials and some cool 3D printed items, like shoes and assistive...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.