Sensor detects spoilage of food

May 6, 2015 by Olli Ernvall, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

VTT has developed a sensor that detects ethanol in the headspace of a food package. Ethanol is formed as a result of food spoilage. The sensor signal is wirelessly readable, for instance, by a mobile phone. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is searching for a partner so as to commercialise the sensor.

The sensor monitors ethanol emitted from the spoilage of foods into the headspace of a package. Ethanol, in addition to carbon dioxide, was found to be the main volatile spoilage metabolite in fresh-cut fruit. The information given by the sensor is transmitted from the package to the customer by means of a reader, and the data is saved digitally in a remote server.

This ethanol sensor can have potential in other applications, such as in alcometers.

The sensor layer is part of a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag, and the can be read wirelessly using an RFID reader in, for example, a smartphone. The sensor transmits information about the freshness of the food in the package to the retailer or customer. The freshness data can be stored in real time in the cloud, enabling the comparison of food quality with its previous or later condition.

A similar optical readout based on the colour change of the sensor was also developed for a smart-phone.

The sensor and the RFID tag can using printing techniques be manufactured into a label or sticker and easily attached to a food package. The price of the sensor will then be low enough for use in .

Using the sensor, it will be possible to control the throughout the distribution chain and to prevent waste caused by spoilage. More than 100 tonnes of food products end up in waste annually (estimation 2014) in Europe, and the amount will rise to 126 million tonnes in the year 2020 if nothing changes.

The sensor is developed in the European project SusFoFlex Smart and sustainable food packaging utilizing flexible printed intelligence and materials technologies, EU 7th Framework Programme Agreement No 289829. The invention is currently in the process of being patented.

Explore further: Sensor detects spoiled meat

Related Stories

Sensor detects spoiled meat

April 15, 2015

MIT chemists have devised an inexpensive, portable sensor that can detect gases emitted by rotting meat, allowing consumers to determine whether the meat in their grocery store or refrigerator is safe to eat.

Fish packaging with built-in nose

November 7, 2013

From the outside you can't see whether supermarket fish is still fresh. Once you remove the plastic foil it's immediately obvious how fresh it is, but by then it has already reached your kitchen. PhD candidate Jenneke Heising ...

Ordinary paper and pencil used to create primitive sensor

March 20, 2015

(—A team of researchers at China's University of Science and Technology has found that lines drawn on paper by an ordinary pencil can be used as a simple sensor. In their paper published in Advanced Functional ...

GE Global Research works on RFID tag for detecting explosives

February 17, 2015

Tech sites are talking about an explosives detector the size of a postage stamp. This is a wireless RFID (radio-frequency identification) sensor tag, battery-free. The tags are specially capable of chemical sensing. The company ...

Rotten meat doesn't stand a chance

April 1, 2011

When it comes to packaged fish or meat, it is nearly impossible to distinguish between fresh goods and their inedible counterparts. Researchers have now developed a sensor film that can be integrated into the package itself, ...

Method for printing memory circuits directly

April 15, 2015

VTT has developed a method for printing memory circuits directly, e.g. onto consumer packaging. Because the required production technology is quite simple, no major investments are required.

Recommended for you

Matter waves and quantum splinters

March 25, 2019

Physicists in the United States, Austria and Brazil have shown that shaking ultracold Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) can cause them to either divide into uniform segments or shatter into unpredictable splinters, depending ...

How tree diversity regulates invading forest pests

March 25, 2019

A national-scale study of U.S. forests found strong relationships between the diversity of native tree species and the number of nonnative pests that pose economic and ecological threats to the nation's forests.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.