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Title: Molecularly imprinted polymer sensors for the detection of phosphate in agriculture
Author: Storer, Christopher
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 0781
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2017
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Molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are biomimetic sensing elements that combine the accuracy and highly specific binding affinity of a biosensor, with the robustness and reusability associated with artificial electrochemical sensors. This thesis investigates the application of a MIP sensor to address the challenge of phosphate detection in precision agriculture. Traditional chemical sensing approaches using portable electrochemical sensors display a significant cross-interference between inorganic phosphate and other nutrient ions. This is due to the low position of phosphate in the Hofmeister Selectivity Series for anions, its high electronegativity and its pH dependent structure, resulting in a molecule that is very difficult to detect. To address this challenge, a sensor was created by spin coating a phosphate selective MIP onto a substrate containing a series of electrodes. These electrode devices allowed for electrical measurements to be taken using an inductance, capacitance and resistance (LCR) testing station, and to observe the change in the materials dielectric constant as the binding sites become occupied by the target analyte. The devices underwent several design reiterations to produce an optimised setup consisting of 100 interdigitated chrome electrodes with a width of 1 μm and a separation distance of 1 μm on a quartz substrate. The final electrode design was used to carry out a nutrient cross-interference study across several polymer permutations. The purpose of this was to develop an optimised MIP formulation for binding specifically to inorganic phosphate ions. From this study, an optimal phosphate selective MIP was identified, based upon a binding site constructed from methacrylic acid around a diphenyl phosphate template molecule. During capacitance measurements, this MIP formulation demonstrated a clear preferential response to phosphate (1610 pF) over the average capacitance results observed following exposure to the competing nitrate (1286 pF) and sulphate (1212 pF) nutrients tested in the cross-interference study.
Supervisor: Grieve, Bruce Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hydroponics ; Biomimetic ; Materials Science ; Molecularly Imprinted Polymers ; Chemical Sensors ; Precision Agriculture ; Phosphate