A novel fiber optic technology developed by researchers from Singapore becomes the basis for a novel fiber sensor for plant detection. The fiber optic sensors perform both detection and real-time monitoring of arsenic levels in underground environments. Such monitoring by distributed sensing systems is very important because it shows the presence and quantity of the metal.
The operating principle of this fiber optic system is based on the plantation of fiber sensors into plant tissue. Thus, fiber optic technology allows for detecting arsenic as low as 0.2 parts per billion. Compact and low-cost electronics records data. To be more precise, the combination of fiber optic sensors and plants operate as a fully functional environmental detection system.
It should be noted that such fiber optic systems can be useful in environmental monitoring and agriculture. The thing is that arsenic is a widespread contaminant in most crops, so its detection is crucial for structural health monitoring. Additionally, it is dangerous for human health because it causes cardiovascular disease and even cancers.
It is possible to tune selectively these fiber optic sensors to detect particular arsenic quantities. Herewith, the nanotubes used in fiber sensors do not photobleach, therefore, they have stable emission over time. These fiber optic systems are safe for plants in which they are installed. The technology has been already tested and demonstrated great improvement in time- and equipment-intensive sampling techniques.
“The newly demonstrated technique benefits from the natural ability of plants to extract analytes from their roots and move them throughout their body.” The fiber optic sensor embedded in the living plant presents perfect operation. The researchers use a camera in the fiber optic system to obtain real-time imaging and analysis. Herewith, this fiber sensor can be controlled with compact low-cost electronics.
The tests have been already carried out on spinach and rice, as well as a species of fern. Some properties of fern species promote optimizing the fiber optic sensors to locate extremely low concentrations of arsenic. Compared to the novel fiber system, conventional sensors have a 10 ppb limit.
Thus, fiber optic technology enables the development of more resistant crops to toxic contaminants. The researchers claim that it is possible to transform any living plants into fiber sensors for arsenic detection. Now it is planned to create a compact, portable fiber optic system to control the fluorescence of the sensors within the plants. Finally, novel fiber optic sensors are highly reliable no only in labs but also under field conditions.
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