Work is motivated by astronauts' need for vegetables during long missions

New, highly stretchable sensors can monitor and transmit plant growth information without human intervention, report University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers in the journal Device.

The polymer sensors are resilient to humidity and temperature, can stretch over 400 percent while remaining attached to a plant as it grows and send a wireless signal to a remote monitoring location, said chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Ying Diao, who led the study with plant biology professor and department head Andrew Leakey.

Ying standing in lab and Andrew sitting in office
Ying Diao, left, and Andrew Leakey.
(Photo by Brian Stauffer.)

The study details some of the early results of a NASA grant awarded to Diao to investigate how wearable printed electronics will be used to make farming possible in space.

“This work is motivated by the needs of astronauts to grow vegetables sustainably while they are on long missions,” she said.

Diao’s team approached this project using an Earth-based laboratory to create a highly dependable, stretchable electronic device – and its development did not come easily, she said.


Related topics: