Nanotechnology Could be Used to Create Smart Food Labels
Scientists have created the first two-dimensional transistors. And they could lead to the biggest revolution in food labelling we have ever seen.
Researchers from Trinity College, Dublin, recently announced a major development in nanotechnology, the effects of which could have huge implications in the area of printed labels, particularly in the food and drink industry.
It means that we could soon live in a world where a packet of ham displays a countdown telling you how long it will remain good to eat, or a bottle of wine sends a message to your smartphone letting you know that it is now chilled and ready to drink.
The project was led by Dr Jonathan Coleman, Head Researcher at AMBER, Trinity’s Advanced Materials and Bio Engineering Research department, in collaboration with Professor Laurens Siebbeles from TU Delft in the Netherlands.
Dr Coleman is something of a pioneer in the sphere of 2D nanotechnology, and has already created a method of producing these in liquids, which he has licensed to global innovators including Samsung. The latest project builds on this technology, as the team used ordinary printing techniques to combine nanomaterials in creating a printed, working transistor.
The technology means that printed circuitry will become simpler and more cost effective, opening the gates to a wide range of applications in the printed label industry.
Saving Food Waste
One of the most exciting aspects of the innovative new technology is the possibility that the smart labels could work in combination with the bump mark project. This is a separate development, which uses a layer of gelatin to assess and react to environmental conditions, giving consumers up-to-date information on the quality of their perishable food.
Used in combination, we could soon have better information than ever before about whether the food in our fridge is safe to eat, consigning the concept of the pre-ordained “best before” date to the pages of history.
Such a step would undoubtedly have a significant impact on the horrific levels of food waste that we currently see – almost 30 percent of the food produced globally goes to waste, a truly obscene figure, when you bear in mind that six million children die of hunger every year.
The technology is still in the development stage, but there is no doubt that it could mean enormous changes in the world around us, both in the food label industry and beyond.
Dr Coleman explained that it gives us the opportunity to print electronic circuitry onto anything we choose, from updated weather information being transmitted to a window to interactive film posters on the London Underground. Or how about a printed circuit on your car windscreen that automatically updates you on traffic conditions up ahead? The possibilities really are mind boggling.