JUL 09, 2021 2:00 AM PDT

Wearable Tech for...Plants?

WRITTEN BY: Anne Medina

If your pandemic garden has struggled this season, your tomato plants may be relieved to learn wearable tech is on the way to alert you to their plight. Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a “wearable” patch to detect the gaseous substances plants emit when diseased or stressed, according to a study published this week in the journal Matter.

The flexible patches are just over an inch in length, 0.7 grams in weight, and attach to leaves—in the Matter study, the device was tested on tomato and potato plants, which are together responsible for billions of dollars in the United States GDP.

This plant wearable functions as a “chemical nose,” the authors say, with a suite of chemical ligands embedded in a layer of graphene. When a plant emits a volatile organic compound indicating stress or disease, it fits into one of the chemical ligands like a key in a lock, triggering a reaction that’s carried to the sensor’s processing unit by silver nanowires.

The NCSU wearable can detect and distinguish between 13 plant volatiles and was designed to monitor for signs of physical damage to the plant and ‘late blight,’ a disease caused by the water mold Phytophthora infestans. According to the article, trials on live plants demonstrated that the sensor patch could detect late blight as early as four days after inoculation with P. infestans and evidence of physical damage to the plant within an hour.

While the sensor alerted researchers to the late blight infection at about the same time physical symptoms—blotching and other lesions visible to the naked eye—appeared, the wearable patch offers continuous monitoring and would negate the need for physical inspections by a human.

The researchers estimate that a retail version of the product would cost about $1.10 per patch.  

About the Author
  • Anne is a science writer based in the Southeastern United States, one of the unsung biodiversity hotspots of the world. She channels her passion for animals and ecology into her work as a science communicator, making the latest discoveries accessible and engaging for the public.
You May Also Like
JUL 30, 2021
Microbiology
Viruses Captured at High Resolution as They Moved in 3D
JUL 30, 2021
Viruses Captured at High Resolution as They Moved in 3D
Scientists have used powerful tools to get a better look at viruses at they move through liquid. A new study that was re ...
AUG 19, 2021
Immunology
Immune Enzyme Kills Viruses but Makes Tumors Stronger
AUG 19, 2021
Immune Enzyme Kills Viruses but Makes Tumors Stronger
Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde describes a man who is a kind, respect ...
AUG 16, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
New UTI Models Reveal More About These Tough Infections
AUG 16, 2021
New UTI Models Reveal More About These Tough Infections
If bacteria, usually Escherichia coli, get into the urethra, they can cause a urinary tract infection (UTI). These are s ...
AUG 26, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Viral Infection Can Have a Lasting Impact on Cells
AUG 26, 2021
Viral Infection Can Have a Lasting Impact on Cells
When a virus infects a cell, it usually takes over the cell's machinery to start churning out viral particles, which are ...
SEP 07, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Genetic Influences That Help Make the Human Brain Unique
SEP 07, 2021
Genetic Influences That Help Make the Human Brain Unique
For years, many researchers have been trying to answer the question "What makes us human?" from both a biological and ph ...
SEP 09, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
DNA in the Nucleus Observed In a Surprising Formation
SEP 09, 2021
DNA in the Nucleus Observed In a Surprising Formation
In diagrams of cells, DNA is usually shown as a mass in the cell's nucleus, like a bowl of ramen noodles. But researcher ...
Loading Comments...