Advanced search

Handheld system detects contaminated food

A team at Auburn University, Alabama has developed a real-time biosensing system to detect pathogenic bacteria such as salmonella

The research is described in the American Institute of Physics’ Journal of Applied Physics.

According to a statement, what sets this biosensing system apart from traditional detection methods is a design that involves using a magnetoelastic biosensor — a low-cost, wireless acoustic wave sensor platform — combined with a surface-scanning coil detector.

The biosensors are coated with a bacteria-specific recognition layer containing particles of ‘phage,’ a virus that naturally recognizes bacteria, so that it’s capable of detecting specific types of pathogenic bacteria.

Traditional technologies required the sensor to be inside a coil to measure the sensor’s signals, said Yating Chai, a doctoral student in Auburn University’s materials engineering program.

‘The key to our discovery is that measurement of biosensors can now be made ‘outside the coil’ by using a specially designed microfabricated reading device,’ he said.

‘In the past, if we were trying to detect whether or not a watermelon was contaminated with salmonella on the outside of its surface, the sensors would be placed on the watermelon, and then passed through a large coil surrounding it to read the sensors,’ Chai said.

By contrast, the new biosensing system is a handheld device that can be passed over food to determine if its surface is contaminated.

‘Now, tests can be carried out in agricultural fields or processing plants in real time — enabling both the food and processing plant equipment and all surfaces to be tested for contamination,’ said Chai.

Readers' comments (3)

  • I'm looking forward to the home version. No more relying on use by dates and potentially throwing out perfectly good food, or taking a chance on something and being proved wrong (something my partner is prone to as he has almost no sense of smell!). Can't wait!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What a sight! Everyone in the super market walking with a 'wand' to locate the right product for their use. Will definitely save costs if it can be used at processing plants/fields. A very pretty useful invention.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Will the device work through normal food packaging?
    If so, could the engineer please keep us appraised of all domestic versions please?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say


My saved stories (Empty)

You have no saved stories

Save this article