Wearable sensors for plants

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In Iowa, researchers at Iowa State University are working with new, low-cost, easily produced, graphene-based, sensors-on-tape that can be attached to plants and can provide new kinds of data to researchers and farmers.

The researchers have developed a process for fabricating intricate graphene patterns on tape. The first step is creating indented patterns on the surface of a polymer block, either with a molding process or with 3-D printing. Engineers apply a liquid graphene solution to the block, filling the indented patterns. They use tape to remove the excess graphene. Then they take another strip of tape to pull away the graphene patterns, creating a sensor on the tape.

The process can produce precise patterns as small as 5 millionths of a meter wide – just a twentieth of the diameter of the average human hair. The researchers found that making the patterns so small increases the sensitivity of the sensors.