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A tiny, microfluidic water sensor will not only be much more sensitive than current options, it will also be mass-produced for just five dollars each.
The chip will be inserted into the soil or stem of a plant. It will contain a tiny cavity filled with water, and it will exchange that moisture with the moisture in its environment through a nanoporous membrane. As the moisture flows from one side to the other, the chip will measure any changes in pressure that will result from water entering or being drawn out. Data from the chip will be obtained by connecting the chip to a separate device able to transmit or record information, and one chip can be left in place outdoors for years.
Potential applications for the chip include crop growers, wine and fruit growers, and concrete manufacturers.