Is That Food Fresh? New Packaging Could Let You Know
This goes way beyond sell-by dates: Scientists have developed a plastic converter that could pave the way towards the creation of food packaging with monitoring sensors.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
One of the highlights at last week's International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco was the news that scientists had succeeded in developing a plastic analog-to-digital converter (ADC) that, because of its low production cost, can be used in developing large area sensors on plastic films. One of the many notable applications for such films is the creation of affordable packaging that can monitor the freshness and safety of food contained inside. The key word here is "affordable": Researcher Eugenio Cantatore says that the parts for "smart packaging" have been around for some time, but silicon-based circuits "easily cost ten cents [each]. And that cost is too much for a one euro bag of crisps."
What's the Big Idea?
In recent years more attention has been given to the amount of food wastage in developed countries and its social, environmental, and economic impacts. The printed "sell-by" date is often an estimate, which means that a lot of perfectly safe food is being thrown away. Now that all the parts needed for cost-efficient sensor-based packaging exist, the next step is bringing them together: Cantatore estimates it will take at least another five years before the packaging finds its way to supermarkets.
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