Thank MIT and your smartphone's NFC, there will be no food catastrophes anymore

MIT researchers find inexpensive way to detect gases using a smartphone

If you have trouble keeping track of your groceries, why not have a NFC chip to do the work for you?

MIT, home to some of the finest noggins on this planet, have worked out a way to build a smell sensor, using relatively inexpensive parts. The process involves modifying a NFC chip which, with the help of carbon nanotubes and a smartphone, detect specific gases emitted. MacGyver would be so proud.

The implications for this invention are promising: you can have the sensor monitor your food and warn you if it goes bad, or even detect bombs. Not sure if you can find them in the same package though. But you certainly should be able to get an app for that, which would tell you if your food has gone bad, and if a bomb is going to go off (cursory flatulence joke).

But arguably, the best feature of this sensor is that it is cheap for what it does. It doesn’t require an external power source apart from the little that it gets from the device reading the NFC tag, so it can easily deployed.

The basic premise of these tags, called CARDs (Chemically Actuated Resonant Devices) for short, is that the gases when in conact with the nanotubes, will change the radio frequencies at which power can be transferred to it; that is, the CARD will only respond if it receives enough power at the smartphone-transmitted frequencies.

Right now the technology is fairly new, and understandably limited; for instance, each sensor can only detect one type of gas (although you can get details like concentration of gas), and with the current smartphone setup you have to go really near to take a reading. MIT is currently looking to see if they can leverage on ubiquitous Bluetooth technology to expand the range of application.

But as it is, the implications alone in the field of food hygiene as well as hazardous materials safety should see it developing into an industrial or commercial product in the near future. Our guess is, it won't be long before a flatulence detection app pops up at the app stores.

[Source: Gizmodo, MIT Press Release]