A Field-Portable Thermoplasmonic Plant DNA Extraction Device for Emerging Plant Disease Diagnosis



Photo via Zheng Li, NC State University

NC State Professors Dr. Qingshan Wei from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Dr. Jean Ristaino from the Department of Entomology and Plant Biology, are developing a low-cost, field-portable DNA extraction device applicable to the diagnosis of plant diseases.

In 2019 the PIs report having developed a cost-effective smartphone-based volatile organic compound (VOC) fingerprinting platform that allows non-invasive diagnosis of late blight caused by Phytophthora infestans by monitoring characteristic leaf volatile emissions in the field. This handheld device integrates a disposable colourimetric sensor array consisting of plasmonic nanocolorants and chemo-responsive organic dyes to detect key plant volatiles at the ppm level within 1 min of reaction.

The sensor platform has been beta-tested for the detection of P. infestans in symptomless tomato plants in the greenhouse setting. Drs. Wei and Ristaino are involved with NC State’s Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security Cluster. In March 2019, the PIs were awarded a $200K exploratory grant from the US Department of Agriculture for their proposal titled Smartphone-Based Leaf Volatile Profiling for Noninvasive Diagnosis of Plant Pathogens. Dr. Wei was awarded a NSF Career Grant in December 2019. The award is one of the highest honors given by NSF to young faculty members in science and engineering.