An end to unnecessary food waste?
"Best Before" dates could become a thing of the past thanks to a new plastic sensor circuit developed by researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology, in conjunction with the Universitá di Catania, CEA-Liten and STMicroelectronics.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has estimated that consumers and businesses in developed countries throw away around 100 kilograms of food per person, mainly thanks to the conservative estimates of "Best Before" dates on food products.
The difficultly in estimating how long food will stay usable for and producers' concerns about supplying their customers with spoiled food has resulted in these cautious estimates.
However, it is already possible thanks to the use of sensor circuits to check the freshness of any product by monitoring, for example, the acidity of it. Using your mobile phone or even your fridge to scan a circuit in the packaging can give you a much more accurate picture of your food's use-by date.
The problem, however, lay in the price of production for these sensor circuits, costing around 10 cents per chip which, if placed into a product costing one euro, was too expensive to be viable.
Now, thanks in part to the work of the Eindhoven-based researchers, there are circuits being developed in plastic which have the advantage of being much cheaper as well as being able to be fitted onto the ubiquitous plastic packaging.
The expectation is that it will take five years for these products to make it onto supermarket shelves, but there is much potential for using these sensors in many other industries, including the pharmaceuticals industry, that it will not be a moment too soon.