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Phosphate detection in hydroponics using molecularly imprinted sensors

In a new study from the University of Manchester, 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 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 combination of 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.

Access the full study here.

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