Desktop plant experiment box
This project aims to build small independent “experimental boxes” which are optimized for in-vivo recording of single plant/single plate growth under different environmental conditions and subject to different stimuli.
Doing experiments in plant biology is a difficult task. Experimental conditions are difficult to control and often the impact of even slight variations of environmental conditions is difficult to predict.
Commercial solutions to control the environment are available but quite expensive and normally are optimized for plant growth but not for running experiments. For example, when running photographic time-lapse recording, often an entire growth chamber needs to be used for a single plant or plate. If multiple time-lapse need to be run in parallel the costs escalate quite rapidly and the setup becomes complicated.
We want to build small independent “experimental boxes” which are optimized for in-vivo recording of single plant/single plate growth under different environmental conditions and subject to different stimuli. The boxes will be small in size (around 50x50x60 cm), cheap (estimate material cost <£1000 each) and flexible in features thanks to a modular design. The boxes will be under PC control and allow multiple experiment to run in parallel and in sync.
Dr Marco Aita,
Postdoctoral Researcher, Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge
Ms Marielle Vigouroux,
Bioinformatician, John Innes Centre, Norwich
Dr Carlos Lugo,
Postdoctoral Researcher, EMBL-EBI, Cambridge
Summary of the project's achievements and future plans
Desktop Plant Box Project - Report 6 Feb 2017
We have built the first prototype of the desktop box, with double glazing and providing a prototyping mounting plate in the style of Thorlabs optical breadboards. This provides easy mounting of measurement devices, actuators and plant support. The perforated base also provides air flow in the growth chamber. We are finalizing the first version of the temperature and humidity control device that provides both humid and dry air via a servo-controlled valve. A new member of the team (David Crawford) in the process of testing humidity and temperature sensor and soon we will have a first test of the humidity and temperature control system. A white light illumination panel and IR illumination for cameras are already available (along with a control box for both manual and computer-controlled management of the illumination levels). We have acquired some high magnification lenses that we plan to use with infrared cameras/raspberry PI and to position with the micromanipulator we are developing in our other "Plant electromechanic" project. Due to the busy schedule of the members of the team in the last part of 2016, we are a behind schedule with the optical/camera setup, but we hope to catch-up soon. Designs and software for the management of the device are produced with open source software and we are in the process of creating a github repository to make them available.
In the next few weeks/months we will test the humidity/temperature control (+debug and improve), extend the measurement and control to CO2/ air quality, implement the camera set-up and positioning and develop the control software for the cameras. Most of the work will be on the precise positioning of the cameras for macro analysis of plant growth.
We also plan to write a publication detailing the construction of this device, with experiments on biomechanics and circumnutation as example applications.