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Aston helps improve food safety 

Wheat field

In an exciting new £600,000 project funded by Innovate UK, Aston University has teamed up with Branscan Ltd, Arden Photonics Ltd and Warburtons Bakery, to use innovative photonic technology to develop a sensing solution for characterising and inspecting food products.

Near Infra-Red (NIR) spectroscopy is used to determine the physical properties and quality of powdered food products such as flour. This project will look at using photonic technology to develop an innovative combination sensing solution to monitor quality and quantity at multiple points in the quality control process of powered food products to make it more efficient.

The technology, which has been developed by Aston’s Institute of Photonic Technologies (AIPT), will be low cost, robust and occupy relatively small space, allowing many points of detection during the procession. This will revolutionise the quality control process, as unlike existing technologies, it will allow for the process to be continuously monitored and in real time, rather than waiting for discrete samples to be analysed post production. The provision of real-time in-process data about food quality and safety for food processors will help to meet consumer demands for traceability, safety and high quality in food.

AIPT, based in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Aston University, is an internationally recognised research centre specialising in fibre optics, high-speed optical communications and nonlinear photonic technologies. Branscan has over 20 years’ global experience in quality control technology for flour milling, baking and other food industries. Arden Photonics, design and manufacture equipment for optical fibre test and inspection, optical metrology and beam profiling. Warburtons are the largest bakers in the UK.

The project will use Branscan’s knowledge of the market and application of NIR technology, Arden Photonics' expertise in signal processing and instrumentation, Aston’s expertise in sensor technology and Warburtons operational experience to produce a high tech method of monitoring food to ensure food safety.

Lin Zhang, Professor of Electronic Engineering from AIPT and academic lead said: ‘This project has the potential to produce a range of benefits to the food industry. Applying photonic technology to help control the process of the powdered food products closely will mean we can manage the quality of grain used; reduce possible  waste; increase job security in these businesses, and as a result improve long term business growth. We are looking forward to working with Branscan, Arden and Warburtons to put our research into practice.’

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242. 

This project has the potential to produce a range of benefits to the food industry

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