What the heck are nanoparticles? Scientifically speaking, it’s a particle bigger than 0.001 micrometers and 0.1 micrometers. (That’s smaller than a speck of dust, tipping the scales at 0.3 micrometers.) Maybe farmers are asking a different question – how in the world could this technology be used in agriculture?

Dr. Jonathan Claussen, an assistant professor at Iowa State University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, is working an interesting potential application already. Claussen used graphene ink (a strong, stable nanoparticle) to develop a biosensor that connects to an electrical reader. It’s job—detecting pesticide levels in the soil.

“It’s like a pH test strip,” he tells Selina Meiners with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Potentially, such technology could be used to quickly and efficiently find out if ideal levels of pesticides have been applied to a particular field and possibly mitigate areas of overuse.

To read more about how these nanoparticles work, visit http://blogs.usda.gov/2016/11/30/nanostructured-biosensors-detect-pesticide-help-preserve-environment/.