The aim of the research is to produce biomimetic polymer sensors that can be used in a remote monitoring system to quickly and selectively detect the concentration of in-field macronutrients (such as phosphates and nitrates) in soils and aqueous growth media.
This is of significant interest within the food & agriculture sector, as it has the potential to provide agronomists with a rapid, simple to use and cost effective alternative to traditional laboratory techniques for the precise measurement of nutrient concentrations in growth media and soils.
The research at the University of Manchester is focussing on producing a novel sensor system for use in hydroponics, so as to provide a measurement and feedback system. This aims to carefully monitor and control the dosing of nutrients into the growth media, and thus provide the conditions for an optimal crop yield.
The polymer material is being continuously optimised to suit the target analyte, and the reusability and robustness of the synthetic films is of significant interest. Producing a reversible polymer sensor that can produce multiple readings would be of significant interest, allowing for further automation of a monitoring system.