A scientist from the Iowa State University has developed a new technique that measures the time it takes for two kinds of plants to move water from their roots, to their lower leaves and then to their upper leaves.
Scientist Patrick Schnable said: “With this tool, we can begin to breed plants that are more efficient in using water.”
The Science Daily website reported that the tool making these water measurements possible is a tiny graphene sensor that can be taped to plants. Researchers have dubbed it a "plant tattoo sensor."
Graphene is great at conducting electricity and heat, and it is strong and stable. The graphene-on-tape technology in this study has also been used to produce strain and pressure sensors that can be worn by the plants.
Liang Dong, an Iowa State associate professor of electrical and computer engineering said that the sensors are made with graphene oxide, a material very sensitive to water vapor.
The presence of water vapor changes the conductivity of the material, which can be quantified to accurately measure transpiration, or the release of water vapor from a leaf.
"This fabrication process is very simple," Dong said. "You just use tape to manufacture these sensors. The cost is just cents."
The plant sensors have been successfully tested in lab and pilot field experiments, 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,” he added.