EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Novel Printed Soil Decomposition Sensors Based on Biodegradation

Madhur Atreya1, John-Baptist Kauzya1, Stacie DeSousa2, Evan Williams3, Austin Hayes1, Karan Dikshit4, Jenna Nielson5, Abigail Palmgren5, Sara Khorchidian1, Shangshi Liu6, Anupama Gopalakrishnan4, Eloise Bihar1, Carson Bruns1, Richard Bardgett6, John Quinton7, Jessica Davies7, Jason Neff2, and Gregory Whiting1,4
Madhur Atreya et al.
  • 1University of Colorado Boulder, Mechanical Engineering, Boulder, USA
  • 2University of Colorado Boulder, Environmental Studies, Boulder, USA
  • 3University of Colorado Boulder, Electrical Engineering, Boulder, USA
  • 4University of Colorado Boulder, Materials Science & Engineering, Boulder, USA
  • 5University of Colorado Boulder, Chemical & Biological Engineering, Boulder, USA
  • 6The University of Manchester, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Manchester, UK
  • 7Lancaster University, Lancaster Environment Center, Lancaster, UK

The in situ sensing of soil health through the monitoring of microbial and enzymatic activity has remained a challenge, and is typically limited to laboratory techniques that are time and labor intensive. In addition, results from assessments done offsite do not always reflect real time bio-chemical-physical processes occurring in soil. Here, we present a novel printed decomposition sensor comprising a poly(hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) and carbon composite material.1 As the PHBV binder biodegrades in soil, the resistivity of the composite increases, which can be easily read with low-cost, wireless readout equipment. A correlation can be drawn between sensor response and general microbial activity in both soil and compost tea in as little as 14 days. Since PHBV is degraded by numerous microbes in the soil, it can be considered a “broad spectrum” decomposition sensor. However, this sensor is also a proof of concept that can possibly be modified to detect more specific soil decomposition activity, such as denitrification. We propose that selectivity can be achieved by mapping the enzyme(s) or microbe(s) of interest to a list of candidate binder materials that they reliably degrade. This design methodology considers the physical and chemical properties of these materials before and after degradation in soil and possible effects by interference enzymes and microbes.

1. Atreya, M.; Desousa, S.; Kauzya, J.; Williams, E.; Hayes, A.; Dikshit, K.; Nielson, J.; Palmgren, A.; Khorchidian, S.; Liu, S.; Gopalakrishnan, A.; Bihar, E.; Bruns, C. J.; Bardgett, R.; Quinton, J. N.; Davies, J.; Neff, J. C.; Whiting, G. L. A Transient Printed Soil Decomposition Sensor Based on a Biopolymer Composite Conductor. Adv. Sci. 2022, 2205785, 1–10.


How to cite: Atreya, M., Kauzya, J.-B., DeSousa, S., Williams, E., Hayes, A., Dikshit, K., Nielson, J., Palmgren, A., Khorchidian, S., Liu, S., Gopalakrishnan, A., Bihar, E., Bruns, C., Bardgett, R., Quinton, J., Davies, J., Neff, J., and Whiting, G.: Novel Printed Soil Decomposition Sensors Based on Biodegradation, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-8573,, 2023.