Identification of Transgenic Plant Species Using Non-invasive THz Spectroscopy for Advancing Natural and Organic Farming Practices

About this project

Project description

The recent advancement in Precision Agriculture which aims to achieve yield maximization with natural resource optimization in farming practices worldwide; has brought the techniques of ‘Agri-Photonics’ to the forefront. In this regard, the increasing food literacy in consumer market has brought about a sharp increase in the demand of natural and organic food. This rapidly growing sector not only forbid the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides, but also stresses on the production of naturally occurring genetic variants of a specific crop which might not have maximum yield capacity. Thus, the need of a photonics-based technique to identify various transgenic plant species in a fast, non-invasive and objective manner for easy segregation of plant varieties in consumer agriculture has become paramount.

This project will explore the use of spectroscopy and imaging using terahertz (THz) range (3000 – 30 µm in wavelength or 0.1 × 1012  10 × 1012 Hz in frequency) which is an extremely sensitive non-contact, non-invasive technique to sense different transgenic species based on their characteristic biochemical fingerprints. Initially, through systematic extraction of genetic material of various phenotypes of a specific crop and subsequent spectral characterization using THz time domain spectroscopy will yield the biochemical signature map of these phenotypes in THz range. In the second phase, the same genetic variants will be imaged in-vivo in THz range to explore the viability of this Agri-photonic technique towards phenotype identification. Finally, high power THz sources working in a relatively narrow frequency range will be used to target these frequency ‘signature’ towards achieving higher signal-to-noise in the THz image formation. This is required for high efficiency classification of transgenic species through numerical analysis using artificial neural network type identifiers.


This programme brings together the unique combination of expertise and facilities at two internationally-leading research groups to develop an innovative technology for broad-scale disease surveillance of crop plants of significant economic and societal impact both in India and Australia.

We will develop a novel terahertz (THz) frequency tool for identification of different transgenic species based on their characteristic biochemical ‘fingerprints with the aim to introduce new best-practice control strategy in agriculture.

Furthermore, by leveraging the world-class expertise in developing THz laser and time domain THz imaging systems at both UQ and IIT-D, we will explore the applicability of our new platform to the standoff disease surveillance in real, field applications.

The development of the proposed platform-technology will have far-reaching impact encompassing academic, economic and societal aspects, in addition to having an immediate and disruptive impact in developing organic farming and agriculture techniques.

Academics will also benefit in the field of THz metrology associated with molecular spectroscopy (with applications in plant biology and agriculture), through the use of these fast and sensitive spectroscopic systems.

There is potential for significant economic and societal impact through the translation of these technologies to industry, the licensing for manufacture by Indian and Australian industries, and through the creation and growth of engineering companies.

Both IITD and UQ have a strong track record of industrial collaboration, protecting and licensing IP, and marketing of technologies. Rakic group at UQ is undeniably one of the premier research groups in laser-feedback interferometry worldwide, with a numerous research world-firsts in LFI sensors and a close working relationship with L3 Micreo Ltd, a subsidiary of L3 Technologies based in Queensland, Australia. The group also boasts the only dedicated THz QCL facility in Australia, which has been previously supported through ARC grants and the Advance Queensland Research Fellowship scheme. Overall this AU$3.8M facility consists of 150 m2 of laboratory space dedicated to LFI sensor development spanning the visible, infrared and THz regions of the spectrum.

This programme will also generate impact through the creation of a vibrant inter-disciplinary research environment across UQ and IITD sites that will through UQIDAR attract and retain outstanding young researchers who will grow to be future academic and industrial leaders in India and Australia, and advocates in science and engineering.

PhD students associated with this programme will visit and work at partner sites for joint experiments, simulations and discussion, leading to the sharing of skills and the dissemination of scientific outcomes to aligned research programmes at these sites.

The proposed research will give rise to publications in leading scholarly journals in the fields of photonics and terahertz engineering including Optics Letters, Optics Express, Applied Physics Letters, and IEEE Transactions on Terahertz Science and Technology.

We also anticipate communicating our research outcomes at premier international conferences in the field. Additionally, we will promote open access to our research findings, and plan to communicate research results both within and beyond the academic community.

Information for applicants

Essential capabilities

  1. Basic undergraduate coursework in Biochemistry/Biotechnology/Physics/Electrical Engineering/Computer Sciences.
  2. Excellent English Communication skills.

Desireable capabilities

  1. Working knowledge of MATLAB and LABVIEW.
  2. Prior experience in working on Adobe Creative Suite products (Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop).

Expected qualifications (Course/Degrees etc.)

BTech (Bio-Engineering/Chemical Engineering/Elec Engineering/Engineering Physics/); MSc (Biochemistry/Physics/Chemistry); MTech (Bio-Engineering/Chem Engineering/Elec Engineering/Applied Physics).

Candidate Discipline

Botany, Biochemistry, Electrical Engineering, Physics.

Project supervisors

Principal supervisors

UQ Supervisor

Professor Aleksandar Rakic

School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering
IITD Supervisor

Professor Amartya Sengupta

Department of Physics