Can you be completely sure that your food is not contaminated with bacteria? In the near future, an inexpensive device connected to your smartphone will be able to warn you about harmful bacteria in food. The technology is currently being developed at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
Under the leadership of Lili He, a food processor, the researchers developed a chip that includes a special molecule known as 3-MBPA, which attracts the attention of bacteria and binds to them.
The chip is immersed in a sample of food, which must be checked, and then washed with a special liquid with high acidity. This process allows you to wash off sugar, fats and proteins, but the bacteria remain.
Then the chip is placed in a simple light microscope, which works together with the smartphone. A special application on the phone counts the number of bacteria present on the chip. The system is able to detect only 100 bacterial cells per milliliter of solution.
The results of food testing will be ready in just two hours. It is worth noting that the standard method of cultivating bacteria from food samples takes two days. Although there are other much faster methods of detecting bacteria, the developers of the new system claim that they are all not so accurate and reliable.
Researchers hope that as soon as the technology is available for commercial purposes, it will be used not only by cooks, but also by humanitarian workers who check the presence of bacteria in food and water during natural disasters.