Scientists have developed a new method of transferring graphene-based sensors that allows them to be used in new, more complex ways such as measuring changes in both plant physiology.
Graphene is a form of carbon that consists of single layer of carbon atoms. The atoms are arranged in a hexagonal lattice that looks a lot like a honeycomb in a beehive. Graphene is a component of other types of carbon such as charcoal, graphite, and carbon nanotubes. Graphene’s structure allows it to have many unusual and useful properties. It is the strongest material that has ever been tested, is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, and is nearly transparent. The combination of these characteristics makes it a candidate for the manufacture of products such as shatterproof phone screens, ultra-fast phone chargers, and more efficient solar panels.
Creating and transferring graphene can be very tricky. Current methods make it difficult to ensure that the graphene is one carbon atom thick. Often times when removing it from a larger block of graphite, the graphene is of inconsistent thickness and is in unwanted shapes that result in limited resolution. Scientists at Iowa State university have developed a new method of harvesting and transferring graphene sensors that ensure they are the right size, shape, and thickness to be used in small and accurate sensors.
The researchers made the sensors by using small Si molds and a graphene suspension. The finished sensors were then able to be transferred to other surfaces using only scotch tape. The only other method of creating graphene sensors with similar success was using costly laser printers. The most costly components required in this method of production is the PDMS substrate used which is still a fraction of the cost of previous techniques.
Using their newly created sensors, the team was able to monitor the water usage of various corn plants. Leaves lose water through the stomata (tiny holes) in their leaves, similar to how we do by breathing. By attaching graphene sensors to two different types of maize plants with scotch tape, the scientists were able to create a kind of “plant tattoo” that measures this water loss and determines which plants (inbred or hybrid) required the most water.
This work has the potential to help plant breeders develop drought-resistant plants. With increasing global temperatures, drought is becoming an increasing concern to farmers around the world. If scientists were able to breed plants with a high yield but required very little water, farmers could continue to produce crops even during times of drought. These plants could also be used in impoverished areas of the world where water is scarce and crop irrigation is expensive.
Uses of graphene: https://gizmodo.com/5988977/9-incredible-uses-for-graphene
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