A new detector is under development that will be able to spot minute traces of poisonous elements with photonics, giving a result in a matter of minutes. This is quite useful, as research has found that pesticides in fruit and vegetables are killing up to 11,000 people every year, unintentionally poisoning up to 385 million worldwide.
The ultrasensitive detector harnesses light particles to spot the tiniest traces of pesticide or bacteria 50 to 100 times quicker than existing technologies. It is currently being developed by an EU-funded consortium. The system will allow workers to check for pesticides or bacteria by monitoring dozens more samples of fruits and vegetables than are currently performed. From preparing a sample to detection, the new system can deliver a result in less than 30 minutes – a fraction of the time at present.
The team is using an extremely sensitive system that uses laser light to detect chemical or biological analytes. Called a plasmo-photonic bimodal multiplexing sensor, the system can spot bacteria or pesticides label-free, without having to use chemicals or dyes as a marker.
The project, called GRACED, is currently being coordinated by CyRIC – Cyprus research and innovation Centre, and includes a consortium of experts from all across Europe. The developers took their inspiration from one of their existing sensors that examines water to detect microbiological or chemical contamination with a small number of pesticides.