Towards Phosphate Detection in Hydroponics Using Molecularly Imprinted Polymer Sensors

Christopher Storer, Zachary Coldrick, Daniel Tate, Jack Donoghue, Bruce Grieve

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    An interdigitated electrode sensor was designed and microfabricated for measuring the changes in the capacitance of three phosphate selective molecularly imprinted polymer (MIP) formulations, in order to provide hydroponics users with a portable nutrient sensing tool. The MIPs investigated were synthesised using different combinations of the functional monomers methacrylic acid (MAA) and N-allylthiourea, against the template molecules diphenyl phosphate, triethyl phosphate, and trimethyl phosphate. A cross-interference study between phosphate, nitrate, and sulfate was carried out for the MIP materials using an inductance, capacitance, and resistance (LCR) meter. Capacitance measurements were taken by applying an alternating current (AC) with a potential difference of 1 V root mean square (RMS) at a frequency of 1 kHz. The cross-interference study demonstrated a strong binding preference to phosphate over the other nutrient salts tested for each formulation. The size of template molecule and length of the functional monomer side groups also determined that a a short chain functional monomer in combination with a template containing large R-groups produced the optimal binding site conditions when synthesising a phosphate selective MIP.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)531
    Number of pages11
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2018


    • hydroponics
    • interdigitated electrodes
    • molecularly imprinted polymer;
    • nutrient monitoring
    • phosphate
    • polymer sensor
    • precision agriculture


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