Ben-Gurion University researchers develop new realtime soil nitrate sensor

Will prevent water resource pollution and optimize agricultural productivity

BEER-SHEVA, Israel – January 14, 2020 – Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers have developed a new nitrate sensor that will provide real-time and continuous measurement in soil to better detect water pollution and measure conditions for higher agricultural productivity.

Natural nitrate levels in groundwater are generally very low. However, excess application of fertilizers in agriculture often results in leaching of nitrate from the soil to water resources. Increased levels of nitrate in water is one of the main reasons for disqualification of drinking water, causing a worldwide environmental problem.

The new optical nitrate sensor is based on absorption spectroscopy. It enables continuous, real-time measurement of nitrate and can detect nitrate concentrations in the range of tens to hundreds of parts per million (ppm), which is the range relevant to growing crops. Its ability to continuously monitor soil nitrate levels produces a highly detailed portrayal of the rapidly changing concentrations of nitrate in the soil solution. The new sensor is also highly resistant to harsh chemical and physical soil conditions.

The invention was developed by Prof. Ofer Dahan of the BGU Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, Prof. Shlomi Arnon of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Elad Yeshno, Ph.D. student at the Zuckerberg Institute.

“Current methods for measuring soil nitrate are cumbersome, labor-intensive and do not provide real-time indication on the actual concentration of nutrients in the soil,” says Prof. Dahan.

“Our invention, which enables real-time monitoring of soil nitrate levels, can supply farmers with valuable data on the amount of nutrient availability for crops,” Prof. Arnon says. “It also optimizes fertilizer application, thus preventing over-fertilization, economizes irrigation and reduces water resources pollution.”

According to Shirley Sheffer Hoffman, senior vice president of business development for water, energy and agriculture at BGN Technologies, BGU’s technology-transfer company, “This is another example of the cutting-edge multidisciplinary research preformed at the BGU Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, in collaboration with BGU’s engineering faculty. This promising project received funding from the Israel Innovation Authority, and now BGN Technologies is seeking an industry partner for its further development and commercialization.”

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About BGN Technologies

BGN Technologies is the technology-transfer company of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. The company brings technological innovations from the lab to the market and fosters research collaborations and entrepreneurship among researchers and students. To date, BGN Technologies has established over 100 startup companies in the fields of biotech, high-tech, and cleantech as well as initiating leading technology hubs, incubators and accelerators. Over the past decade, it has focused on creating long-term partnerships with multinational corporations such as Deutsche Telekom, Dell-EMC, IBM, PayPal, and Bayer, securing value and growth for Ben-Gurion University as well as for the Negev region. For more information, visit the BGN Technologies website.

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) turns 50 this year, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond. Visit vision.aabgu.org to learn more. AABGU, headquartered in Manhattan, has nine regional offices throughout the United States. For more information visit http://www.aabgu.org.

Media Contact
Andrew Lavin
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