Real time and accurate measurement of sub-surface soil moisture and nutrients is critical for agricultural and environmental studies. This paper presents a novel on-board solution for a robust, accurate and self-calibrating soil moisture and nutrient sensor with inbuilt wireless transmission and reception capability that makes it ideally suited to act as a node in a network spread over a large area. The sensor works on the principle of soil impedance measurement by comparing the amplitude and phase of signals incident on and reflected from the soil in proximity of the sensor. Accuracy of measurements is enhanced by considering a distributed transmission line model for the on-board connections. Presence of an inbuilt self-calibrating mechanism which operates on the standard short-open-load (SOL) technique makes the sensor independent of inaccuracies that may occur due to variations in temperature and surroundings. Moreover, to minimize errors, the parasitic impedances of the board are taken into account in the measurements. Measurements of both real and imaginary parts of soil impedance at multiple frequencies gives the sensor an ability to detect variations in ionic concentrations other than soil moisture content. A switch-controlled multiple power mode transmission and reception is provided to support highly energy efficient medium access control.1
This paper presents a novel approach to estimate the soil ionic concentration by way of multi-frequency impedance measurements and using the quasi-static dielectric mixing models to infer the various ionic concentrations. In our approach, the permittivity of the soil dielectric mixture is measured using impedance spectroscopy and the results are used as input parameters to dielectric mixing models, combined with the debye-type dielectric relaxation models. We observe that the dielectric mixing models work well for low RF (radio-frequency) range and help in determining the individual ionic concentration in a multi-component soil mixture. Using the fact that the permittivity of a dielectric mixture is proportional to its impedance, we validated our approach by making multi-frequency impedance measurements of a soil mixture at different concentrations of various components. The method provides a good estimate of individual components such as air, water and ions like nitrates. While the paper is written with the perspective of soil constituent concentration determination, the underlying principle of determining individual component concentration using multi-frequency impedance measurement is applicable more generally in areas such as characterizing biological systems like pathogens, quality control of pharmaceuticals etc.