Researchers at IIT-Bombay have fabricated a highly sensitive sensor that can detect real-time the presence of zinc over a wide concentration range of 0.1-500 ppm.
Zinc (Zn) is one of the eight essential micronutrients. It is needed by plants in small amounts, but yet crucial to plant development. It plays an important role in a wide range of processes, such as growth hormone production and internode elongation.
The electrochemical sensor can be used for detecting zinc in the soil even in the presence of other elements and also at minute levels as seen in human sweat.
The sensor is mechanically sturdy and so the signal response remains unaffected even when the sensor is bent 180 degrees.
The sensor can also be employed over 4-7 pH range, indicating its usefulness for both sweat-based physiological sensing and soil-nutrient assessment.
The researchers are able to detect extremely low concentration (0.1 ppm) of zinc because of the very high surface area and electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes.
Accurate determination of zinc in soil samples will help in soil-nutrient assessment and prevent overuse of fertilisers.
Measuring zinc in sweat samples can help signal early onset of muscular fatigue. It can be used as a non-invasive point-of-care sensor.
The sensor requires only few microliters of analyte, thus making it possible to detect zinc in sweat samples.