ETH researchers developed a new generation of microsensors that could provide the vital link between food products and the IoT. The new ultra-thin temperature sensor is bio-compatible and biodegradable.
Currently, microsensors used in different applications, such as the detection of poisonous gases. However, as the sensors often contain precious metals that are harmful to both the environment and human health. They are not suitable for medical applications involving direct contact with the human body or for inclusion in food products.
Giovanni Salvatore, a postdoctoral researcher, convinced that these biodegradable microsensors have a bright future. As an example, in transport fish researchers could be fitted with tiny temperature sensors, allowing them to continuously monitor to ensure they kept at a cool temperature. It requires sensors suitable for use in foodstuffs and no threat to consumer health. The sensors also need to be small, robust and flexible enough to survive food products.
The sensor thickness in micrometers (much thinner than a human hair), and only a few millimeters in length, weighs no more than a fraction of a milligram. The sensor dissolves completely in one-percent saline solution over the course of 67 days.
A thick sensor would be less flexible. The current sensor is so thin that it continues to function even if it is completely crushed or folded. Even when stretched around 10% of its original size, the sensor remains intact.
For the power supply, the researchers connected the sensor to an external micro battery using ultra-thin, biodegradable zinc cables. Researchers fixes a microprocessor and a transmitter on the chip that sends temperature data via Bluetooth to an external computer. This makes it possible to monitor the temperature of a product over a range of 10 to 20 meters.
Salvatore predicts that these biodegradable sensors will part of our everyday lives, depending on the interest shown by industry. By that time, the battery, processor and transmitter would probably integrate into the microsensor.
However, much more research required before these components can use without concerns for human health or the environment. The team currently searching for a bio-compatible energy source to power its sensor.
More information: [Advanced Functional Materials]