Tufts Creates Tiny Edible Food Sensors
In the first few opening lines of my story, “So Appy Together,” in this month’s issue, I offer a play-by-play of my morning routine with my phone:
Monday morning begins with the chime of bells. Blinking awake, I turn toward the noise, pawing at my bedside table in search of my phone. With a quick tap the bells are silenced, as if someone has abruptly cut the ropes in the belfry. I remove the sleep sensor from my forehead and adjust my glasses, scanning through the data from last night to check my REM. “What’s on the agenda for today?” I ask. “Four meetings ahead of you, two assignments due soon,” my phone says, then pings me with my Daily Challenge text message. Today I’m told to try to take 5,000 steps. Totally doable, I think, then reach for my body-monitoring armband and slide it up onto my biceps. My phone connects to it via Bluetooth, and begins registering my movement as I head to the kitchen. I open the fridge, grab the milk, then pour a bowl of cereal, pulling up my phone’s diet tracker to scan the bar codes on each container for an accurate calorie count.
“We’d better finish the milk — it spoils tomorrow,” my husband says, and I realize it’s the first time we’ve spoken this morning. I grimace apologetically, and flip my phone face-down on the table.
Well as it turns out, now I apparently don’t need my husband to tell me the milk is going to spoil, as there’s an app for that too. Tufts University scientists are developing tiny edible sensors that can determine whether a food is about to go bad. The sensors are created of gold foil (like the kind that you see in some fancy desserts) that’s embedded in tiny silk patches that can stick to produce and eggs, and can be left to float in milk. The gold foil will detect when the chemical composition in the food changes as it ripens or spoils (this is know as a food’s dielectric properties) and will in theory be able to transmit a signal to a handheld device, letting you know you better drink your milk before it curdles.
It’s too soon to know what these tiny gold and silk sensors would cost, but just think of the dollars saved in grocery bills each year. And you get the thrill of living in an Alice In Wonderland version of reality, where your food tell you to “Eat Me.” You can probably already guess that I’m excited at the prospect. Just don’t tell my husband.