A bottle of cold drink is a fantastic idea on a scorching summer day, but what if the drink is contaminated with plasticizers? Many people know that plastic bottles will release harmful plasticizers into the drink at high temperatures, so they sensibly avoid leaving bottled drinks or water in hot places, like their cars. However, what if the drink has been contaminated during transportation from the factory to the retail store?
Besides bottled beverages, many other products, such as cosmetics or medicine, may pose potential threats to human health if they are stored at inadequate temperatures or exposed to sunlight for too long during the delivery process.
The danger is real and immediate, but it is humanly impossible to monitor every delivery procedure. Therefore, we plan to invent a biosensor which can help monitor and ensure the cargo quality in transit.
The popularity of the Internet has been increasing considerably in the 21st century, and purchasing in virtual shops has thus become the mainstream consumer pattern. By investigating through our online questionnaire, we’ve found that at least 95.5% of customers do care about what happens with the items they have ordered during the delivery process. As such, we started to think of a way to ensure that the goods are placed in an optimal and safe environment during the whole process of delivery and transportation.
Our idea was to design a sticker that changes color when exposed to inadequate temperature. The sticker can be attached to the boxes or products right before they are about to get transported, and when the sticker changes color, it means that the environment of the transportation is not adequate and therefore needs to be improved.
Though we were inspired by the release of plasticizer from the bottle into the drinking water, we soon found that there is not much difference between the amount of plasticizer released at 25 degrees Celsius and that released at 35 degrees Celsius (or a bit higher). Thus, we decided to apply our product mainly to foods, especially drinks, as well as cosmetics and medicines. The target temperature we’ve set is 37 degrees Celsius, the temperature at which bacteria reproduce most rapidly.
In order to have a better idea about the proper storage temperature of drinks, we went to interview a few superintendents of VEDAN Company, a leading food company in Taiwan, which makes drinks and instant noodles. We then learned that room temperature foods don’t need our product. So we decided to switch our focus to research on cosmetics, nutrients supplements, and medicines. Nevertheless, we also learned that UV will cause the loss of the nutrition in vitamin drinks. It leads us to think of adding another sensor, which is a UV sensor.
After interviewing VEDAN, we learned that UV light will cause the loss of nutrition of the vitamin drinks. Therefore, we decided to invent a sticker to sense both temperature and UV light. We implant a modified gene into e-coli, and after drying them up, we put these e-coli into a specialized sticker, and this completes our device for long-term quality monitoring. The sticker monitors the temperature and UV light in the whole delivery process, and will change color if it detects excessive amounts of the above two factors. By simply taking a glance at it, the customer can directly confirm the condition of the merchandise.
In normal conditions, the color of the sticker will be light green, which indicates “safe.” Nonetheless, if the products are exposed to sunlight or a temperature higher than 37 degrees Celsius, the color will change gradually into red or blue, which indicates “not safe.” The longer the sticker is exposed to these less than ideal conditions, the darker its color will become. The cause of both colors is the synthesis of chromoprotein. Chromoproteins are very stable, which means that the color can last for a long period of time.