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Turkey’s Researchers Develop Food Spoilage Alerts Detector

Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf is a law graduate and freelance journalist with a keen interest in tech reporting.

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Among the most important issues urban communities confront today are food waste and food-borne illnesses. They greatly increase environmental and economic costs while also contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. The conditions for processing, transporting, and preserving food still need to be improved in line with current technical improvements because food rotting is still the primary cause of this waste.

To address these challenges, a team of researchers from Koç University in Turkey has developed a tiny sensor that can monitor the freshness of protein-rich foods like meat, chicken, and fish in real-time and send the data to your smartphone. The tool has the power to change how we monitor and regulate food freshness completely.

Using Smartphones to Detect Food Spoilage

The research team was led by Dr. Emin İstif, a Molecular Biology and Genetics, Kadir Has University, and Assistant Professor Levent Beker, a Mechanical Engineering Koç University. Other members of the team are Hadi Mirzajani, Çağdaş Dağ, Fariborz Mirlou, Elif Yaren Ozuaciksoz, Cengiz Cakır, Hatice Ceylan Koydemir, Iskender Yilgor, and Emel Yilgor.

“We have tested the sensor using chicken and beef samples stored under various storage conditions to demonstrate a real-life application for the sensor, said the team lead.”

The sensor is constructed of an easily synthesized polymer layered over electrodes that detect biogenic amines produced by protein-rich diets via capacitive sensing. It is 0.3 in2 in size and weighs roughly 2 g. With a chip that connects to a smartphone, the sensor employs near-field communication technology to communicate measurements in real time via an antenna wirelessly. When an NFC-compatible smartphone is brought close to the sensor, the chip gets powered.

“The sensor presented a reliable performance, such that the spoilage of foods was predicted during three-day measurement by instantaneous sensor readings using a mobile phone. On the third day, the room-temperature-stored samples showed a 700% change in sensor response compared with the samples stored in a freezer, which proves the sensor operation for the detection of spoilage, the researchers added.”

To show how the sensor would be used in practice, the researchers tested it on packed chicken breasts and rib steak. The meat samples were kept in a freezer, a refrigerator, and at ambient temperature, among other storage spaces. Indicating that biogenic amines were being produced from the meat as it rotted, the capacitance of the sensor tracking the room-temperature samples increased over the course of three days. 

Although the new sensor is still under research, it has the potential to alter how we control and monitor food freshness completely. If it is successful, it might contribute to reducing food waste and enhancing food safety all across the world. The technology will also be very helpful to consumers because it makes it possible to continuously check the food products that are displayed on store shelves.

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