A project led by a Kansas State University engineering professor and funded by the National Science Foundation through its program Signals in the Soil, United Kingdom Research and Innovation, is expected to strengthen national and economic security of both the U.S. and the U.K. by addressing global challenges of sustainable food production and regulation of fertilizer application.
Suprem Das, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering and a David and Lynda Dawson — Carl and Mary Ice Keystone research scholar, will spearhead efforts toward "Real-Time and Continuous Monitoring of Phosphates in the Soil with Graphene-based Printed Sensor Arrays."
The collaboration will include faculty members Saugata Datta, University of Texas, San Antonio; Biswajit Ray, University of Alabama, Huntsville; and Adrien Chauvet, Natalia Martsinovich and Duncan Cameron, all from the University of Sheffield in the U.K.
The goal of the three-year research project, supported by $799,950 in funding in the U.S., and a total of nearly $1.7 million in both countries, is to develop and use a graphene-based additive manufacturing technology to design a low-cost sensor for real-time monitoring of phosphorus content in soil.
"Phosphorous, one of most important nutrients in soil, is required for plant growth and is an indicator of soil health," Das said. "It is important to understand the variations of phosphate in soils and soil-water systems when addressing sustainable food production and regulating fertilizer applications for crops grown in various soil conditions and climate regimes."
The team will develop new graphene soil-sensor technology that will continuously and wirelessly monitor soil phosphates in U.S. Midwest soils and U.K. East Midlands soils.
"Our work will benefit both the U.S. and U.K. as it vitalizes the future workforce by bridging the gaps between science, technology, agriculture and environmental disciplines," Das said.
The project will propel interdisciplinary research at both Kansas State University and the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering in areas such as advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, and sensors for agriculture and environment, while training and educating graduate and undergraduate students as well as postdoctoral researchers.