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Zero-Power Chemical Sensors for Pests and Disease Monitoring

Matteo Rinaldi of Northeastern University in the U.S. will develop a miniaturized, maintenance-free chemical sensor that can detect specific volatile organic chemical vapors released from diseased crops as an effective surveillance system suitable for low-resource settings. Manual surveillance is time-consuming and requires prior knowledge of disease symptoms. Automated, sensor-based crop surveillance is far more effective, but relatively expensive, and the sensors constantly consume power, making them unsuitable for low-resource settings. They will develop a low-energy sensor-based monitoring system by exploiting a recently developed technology that comprises a micromechanical switch made of two cantilever beams. One of the beams will be coated with a polymer sensitive to the plant-based chemical and exposed to the environment. In the presence of that chemical, the beam undergoes a change in mechanical stress, causing it to bend and make contact with the second beam to trigger the switch. They will develop the microswitch-based chemical sensors, integrate them with a low-power long-range wireless module to signal pest detection, and test the performance of prototypes in the laboratory.

More information about Tools and Technologies for Broad-Scale Disease Surveillance of Crop Plants in Low-Income Countries (Round 21)

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.