Nano Bar Codes Detect Foodborne Diseases

Another kind of sensor technology is the nano bar code. Nano bar codes are similar to the traditional bar codes that are found on many packaged food products today. However, the nano bar codes, containing metal nanoparticles, could be used to detect pathogens. The nanopar-ticles have specific, recognizable chemical fingerprints that can be read by a machine, an ultraviolet lamp, or an optical microscope. Using these kinds of bar codes, a supermarket checkout computer can identify thousands of different items by scanning the tiny bar code printed on the package. The scanning of the barcode could reveal spoilage or pathogens within the food package.

A research group headed by Dan Luo, Cornell assistant professor of biological engineering, has created "nanobarcodes." The nanobarcodes fluoresce under ultraviolet light in a combination of colors that can be read by a computer scanner or observed with a fluorescent light microscope.

Summarizing, nanosensors such as electronic tongues and electronic noses plus the use of nanobarcodes have the potential to provide safe food products and packaging. The embedded sensors in food packaging will respond to the release of particular chemicals when a certain food begins to spoil. So, as soon as the food starts to go bad, the packaging will change color to warn the shopper. This system could also provide a more accurate and safer method than the present "sell by dates" marked on food products.

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