Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Scientists have developed a low-cost, portable, paper-based sensor that can perform a variety of functions with easy-to-read results.
The sensor can not only detect spoilage or contamination in food and cosmetic products, but also identify new medicinal plants or authenticate wine or tea.
"I've always been interested in developing technologies that are accessible to both industry and the general population," Dr. Silvana Andreescu, a researcher with the American Chemical Society, said in a press release. "My lab has built a versatile sensing platform that incorporates all the needed reagents for detection in a piece of paper. At the same time, it is adaptable to different targets, including food contaminants, antioxidants and free radicals that indicate spoilage."
The new technology was presented this week at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
The sensors are different than other types of sensors in that they use nanostructures to catch and bind to compounds.
"Most people working on similar sensors use solutions that migrate on channels," Andreescu said. "We use stable, inorganic particles that are redox active. When they interact with the substances we want to detect, they change color, and the intensity of the change tells us how concentrated the analyte is."
For example, one sensor prototype was able to identify ochratoxin A, a fungal toxin found in a variety of products including cereal and coffee. The technology could be expanded to identify salmonella or E. coli, according to Andreescu.