Engineering nanostructured materials to measure water stress in plants

Speaker Details:

Abraham Strook
William C. Hooey Director and Gordon L. Dibble '50 Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Cornell University

Lecture Details:

April 5, 2018
12:30-1:20 p.m.
Foege N130A, Wallace H. Coulter Seminar Room


Water is a critical input for agriculture, as it defines plant growth, yield, quality, and susceptibility to disease. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of human use of fresh water globally and the changing climate is placing a growing number of crops at risk of drought damage. The future of sustainable agriculture depends on improvements in both the management of water use by irrigation and the intrinsic water use efficiency of crops via breeding. In this talk, I will present two approaches developed in my lab to address the challenge of measuring drought stress directly within important crops for applications in irrigation management and high throughput phenotyping for breeding. The first is a microfluidic device that can be embedded directly within the water-conducting tissue of woody plants (e.g., grape, almond, apple) to transduce the internal water status into a voltage. The second is based on water stress-responsive nanoparticles that can be dispersed within the leaves of any plant to provide a fluorescence signal that encodes the internal water status. In both cases, the interaction of nanostructured materials with water plays a central role in function. I will discuss the relevant chemistry, thermodynamics, and plant physiology implicated in these measurement systems and present unprecedented, real-time measurements of the dynamics of water stress in plants in the greenhouse and field. I will conclude with perspectives on the integration of these new technologies into close-loop irrigation systems and molecular breeding programs for water use efficiency.

Speaker Bio:

Abraham Stroock is the Gordon L. Dibble ’50 Professor and William C. Hooey Director of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University. His research relates to engineering microchemical process with an emphasis on transport phenomena, thermodynamics, and physiology. Current projects in his laboratory include: 1) the development tools with which to manipulate metastable states of liquid water for the pursuit of fundamental questions in physical chemistry, plant physiology, and environmental transport and with applications in heat transfer and environmental sensing, and 2) systems biological models of tissue- and organism-scale processes in the contexts of solid tumor cancers and plants. He obtained his BA in Physics from Cornell in 1995 and his PhD in Chemical Physics in 2002 from Harvard University. He has received a MIT Technology Review TR35 Award and an NSF CAREER Award.