Swiss Researchers Create Edible Sensor To Monitor Food

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I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore food critic but I do eat what I love and I love what I eat. Picking food that’s fresh is always a bit of a challenge at a supermarket. You never know how long the product has been on the shelf. That’s pretty much why people decide to buy local organic produce. But what about all the other products?

Well, the Swiss are here to save the day.  A Swiss research team has successfully created a biodegradable temperature sensor. The sensor has the ability to stick to any type of food all the way from the very beginning to digestion.

What is this sensor?

Created by Giovanni Salvatore who is a researcher at ETH Zurich, the solution is an ultra-thin sensor comprising of materials that can be digested without harm. This essentially saves a lot of time and energy which would usually be spent on monitoring food that has to remain at a certain temperature lest it spoils. Sure, you can use already existing technology such as RFID tags. But the issue is that these tags are comprised of metal materials that are not exactly recommended for consumption and can even contain substances that are hazardous to consume.

Sensor
The biodegradable sensor
Image Credits: TechCrunch

The sensor is only around 16 micrometres thick. If you don’t know what that means, here’s an example; a human hair is 100 micrometres thick. So this is literally thinner than a human hair. The filament is composed of magnesium, which according to ETH Zurich plays an important role in our diet. In addition, the sensor also comprises of silicon dioxide and nitride, both of which are harmless, together with a biodegradable polymer made from corn and potato starch to bind everything together. The entire sensor can be bent out of shape and even crumpled up and still function without an issue.

How does one use the sensor?

All you need to do is put this sensor on food items such as fruits, vegetables, and meat and load them onto a truck or a boat. From there, you can check the actual temperature of the food from the exterior. Once it’s consumed, no worries, it will just dissolve in your body.

The only drawback is that the power and wireless components aren’t biodegradable. Rather, they are located elsewhere and connect with zinc cables. So even though the sensor is biodegradable and safe for consumption, the equipment needed for the sensor to work needs some work as well. But at least it’s a start. Giovanni and his team also published their work in Advanced Functional Materials which is available here.

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