Printable Sensors Sniff Out Rotten Food

A research group in China has developed a wireless sensing device that detects odors from meat which has gone bad.

AsianScientist (Jul. 12, 2018) – Scientists in China have developed a sensor that can the scent of rotten meat. They published their findings in Nano Letters.

In the US alone, 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses every year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, about 125,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die. Traditionally, many consumers simply smell food to detect spoilage, but this technique is only as reliable as the sniffer’s nose. At the other end of the spectrum, food inspectors often use bulky, expensive equipment to detect harmful microbes.

Scientists are investigating other approaches, including near field communication (NFC) labeling, that are both portable and dependable. NFC devices wirelessly transmit information over short distances—usually less than four inches. They are similar to the radio frequency identification products retailers use to track inventory and shipments.

Building on this idea, researchers led by Professor Pan Lijia at Nanjing University, China, sought to incorporate a sensitive switch into NFC labeling tags to detect food spoilage using a smartphone. The scientists printed a nanostructured, conductive, polymer-based gas sensor that can detect substances called biogenic amines, which give decomposing meat its bad odor.

They embedded these sensors into NFCs placed next to meat. After the meat had been stored for 24 hours at 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the researchers found that the sensors successfully detected significant amounts of biogenic amines. The sensors then switched on the NFCs so they could transmit this information to a nearby smartphone.

The researchers noted that their wireless sensor and tagging device could improve the detection of rotten food so that it does not end up on consumers’ plates.

The article can be found at: Ma et al. (2018) Highly Sensitive, Printable Nanostructured Conductive Polymer Wireless Sensor for Food Spoilage Detection.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Pexels.
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