ISU Researchers Using Plant Material To Make Sensors

Ames, Iowa — Iowa State researchers are among a group developing technologies that use plant-based inks to print low-cost, biodegradable, and recyclable electronics for sensors and batteries.

ISU’s, Jonathan Claussen, is working on the printing process for the inks.

(as he says)”We can actually make a material called graphene out of it. It’s a carbon-based material that is highly conductive and has other great properties such as high thermal conductivity and we make these inks and print them.” Claussen says.

He is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and says sensors can be used in a variety of ways.

(as he says)”We use them to sense fertilizers in the soil, pesticides in plants or in the soil, to food-borne pathogens in food, to even using them to try and detect cancer for cancer diagnostics,” Claussen says.

He says there’s another use for them as well.

(as he says) He says it also deals with creating energy harvesters that could be used to store energy and charge up an electronic device.

Claussen says there’s a lot of potential uses.

(as he says)”We will help in printing them and then developing them into sensors,” he says. And he says they will particularly focus on ion sensors for use in hydroponics and plants.

Claussen says using these plant-based inks is a safer way to make these items.

(as he says)”This uses printing technology that is a lot easier to scale. It’s a lot more friendly to the environment — the materials themselves are more friendly — they are just carbon-based. But also, we don’t need to do expensive cleanroom processing which has a lot of chemicals that are harmful to the environment,” Claussen says.

He says these sensors won’t replace all the existing sensors.

(as he says)”They wouldn’t replace silicon chips in your computer,” Claussen says, “but they could be used for sensors that may be integrated into clothing or senors that may be going into farm fields that integrate with some conventional electronics as well.”

The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year grant of nine million dollars to support the project and its team of researchers from the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Iowa State University.

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