No, I’m not talking about GMOs or Cellular Agriculture or any technologies to grow or produce our foods.
I’m talking about a new project at Rice University where researchers used a commercial laser to transform the surface carbon in foods–like toast, coconuts shells, potatoes, and Girl Scout cookies–into graphene.
Graphene, is a line of carbon that’s only as thick as a single atom, and is several times stronger than steel and 100 times more conductive than copper.
So what does this have to do with food?
For decades the food industry has been waiting for the price and size of RFID chips to become useable on every package. Graphene might be the answer. It can be patterned into a thin, edible circuit, a radio hardware to transmit data, or other types of sensors.
James Tour the lead researcher said in a press release; “perhaps all food will have a tiny RFID tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin, and the path it took to get to your table.” Perhaps the ultimate blockchain?
He also said that graphene could be used to create E. coli sensors designed to spot if food was contaminated–and a circuit might glow a warning light in response. As all these components are graphene-based, they are all edible.
Before we get too excited, so far the technique only seems to work on foods high in lignin, an insoluble fiber. Foods like whole grains, wheat and corn bran, beans and peas, potato skins, green beans, cauliflower, zucchini, celery, avocados, bananas. Certainly enough variety to test the concept.