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Ultra-compact, low-cost plasmo-photonic bimodal multiplexing sensor platforms as part of a holistic solution for food quality monitoring

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GRACED (Ultra-compact, low-cost plasmo-photonic bimodal multiplexing sensor platforms as part of a holistic solution for food quality monitoring)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-06-30

The continuously increasing consumer demand for fresh fruits and vegetables also increases the risk of microbiological and chemical contamination. Fresh produce remains the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. Current techniques for inspection are timely and costly with tests carried out in random batches at production and processing facilities, not covering the entire value chain. GRACED proposes a novel solution based on a low-cost bio-photonic sensor, capable of simultaneously and quickly detecting different analytes of interest throughout the value chain. The sensor will be used in two versions of a sensing device, developed within the project: a portable instrument version and a fully autonomous device version suitable for unattended deployment in fields. The approach will be validated in real-world pilots representing different production and distribution systems. A data analytics platform & decision-support system (DSS) will also be developed, to gather data from the measurements performed by the devices and assist in decision-making processes.
In the first 18 months of the project, all the user and stakeholders’ requirements for the sensor, the devices and the DSS were gathered, and a conceptual design of the prototypes was achieved. Work has then been performed on the development of all system components. For the sensor, different designs and materials were tested, first through simulations and then in real-life produced prototypes. The functionalization of the sensor surface using antibodies has also progressed, as well as the design of the microfluidic system that delivers the sample on the sensing area of the sensor. For the GRACED devices, all the submodules have been designed and produced, in order to allow the integration of the first version of both the instrument and the autonomous node. The first version of the DSS has also been delivered. All these components are currently being used in the mid-project integration of the GRACED system. Regarding dissemination, GRACED partners participated in several conferences and have presented the project to several relevant communities, including through journal publications and the general press. Continously active social media channels and project website are used for announcing project news, events and results. The project’s zenodo community is regularly updated with all publications under open access.
In terms of progress beyond the state-of-the-art (SotA) in portable devices for contamination checks along food value chains, the GRACED protocol developed in this period will allow making a measurement in less than 30 minutes. This is significantly faster than current techniques (requiring several hours), while the cost of the analysis is also kept low (cheap consumables). The device is also highly reconfigurable to detect different types of contaminants, depending on the application. In terms of the GRACED photonic sensor, this is also beyond SotA, even at this early stage, due to the compact size and single-hand interferometer approach, but also because of the possibility of integrating multiple sensing elements on the same chip. The possibility of using cheaper materials for its manufacturing (instead of Si4N4), as well as on-chip light sources is being investigated and could lead to a leap forward in the SotA.