MIT Engineers Have Developed a New Technology that can Indicate Plants’ Shortage of Water

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Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created sensors that can be printed onto plants’ leaves and reveal when the plants are experiencing a water shortage.

This kind of technology could usually save neglected houseplants and if farmers’ crops are in danger, it will even give them early signs of warning, according to Michael Strano, a Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering during MIT. He is also a comparison author of a new study.

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Strano says this technology can be used as a beginning indicator of a shortage of water because it’s difficult to get this information through other ways. We can put sensors into a soil, or we can do satellite imaging and mapping.

Strano wanted to develop these kinds of sensors and to work this he has already begun working with a major agricultural producer. He believes that the sensors the record will be useful to farmers for their crops and to gardeners and civic farmers.

For this study, the MIT researchers tested their sensors on a plant called as the peace lily, which they chose in part due to its vast stomata. Then they researchers combined a copy mold with a microfluidic channel.  After placing the copy mold on a leaf they found that the ink which was flowing through the channel gets deposited onto the root surface of the leaf.

The MIT group is now exploring a new method to request electronic circuits by simply merely placing a sticker on the surface of the leaf. Large-scale rural producers, gardeners, and civic farmers may also be interested in such a device according to them.

“It could have large implications for farming, generally with meridian change, where we will have H2O shortages and changes in environmental temperatures,” the lead author of the paper, MIT postdoc Volodymyr Koman says.