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Soil Moisture Sensor

Sandia National Laboratories

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PDF Document PublicationMarket Sheet (715 KB)

Technology Marketing SummaryIn the agriculture industry, it is critical to know the water content in the soil in order to maintain the viability and profitability of an agriculture business.  With the high cost of water, it is essential to limit the amount of water used to only what is necessary for the health of the plant.  Current technologies provide soil moisture information that is limited to areas near the surface of the soil.  As the demand on water resources increases, there is a need for technology that provides subsurface measurements of water held in lower layers of soil.  Sandia National Laboratories has invented a method and system for determining the soil moisture at depths of more than a few feet.DescriptionAs cultivated land is irrigated or receives precipitation, water accumulates over time in the soil.  This invention measures the amount of accumulated moisture in the soil to determine when and how much irrigation is needed.  The amount of water needed for the cultivated field is determined by monitoring the decrease in secondary cosmic radiation intensity as the quanity of water in the soil increases.  The sensor is place five feet below the surface and a reference sensor is mounted above ground, which measures the total incoming cosmic radiation.  The sensors measure moisture over a relatively wide area, measuring moisture from about a 10-foot-wide circle at the surface. Benefits
  • Enhances irrigation efficiency
  • Measurement apparatus is practical, inexpensive, easy to install, and requires little maintenance
  • Provides available data in "real time"
  • Measures relatively wide area of soil
Applications and Industries
  • Agriculture Industry
  • Wine Industry
  • Water Efficiency/ Conservation
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 6,663,012
Method for detecting moisture in soils using secondary cosmic radiation
Water content in a soil is determined by measuring the attenuation of secondary background cosmic radiation as this radiation propagates through a layer of soil and water. By measuring the attenuation of secondary cosmic radiation in the range of 5 MeV-15 MeV it is possible to obtain a relative measure of the water content in a soil layer above a suitable radiation detector and thus establish when and how much irrigation is needed. The electronic circuitry is designed so that a battery pack can be used to supply power.
Sandia National Laboratories 12/16/2003
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
Patent# 6,663,012, SD# 8351Prototype - Sandia estimates this technology at a TRL 4. Key elements have been demonstrated in a laboratory environment. Available - Various license and partnering options are available. Please contact the Intellectual Property department to discuss.07/08/201103/12/2013

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