Graphene on toast? Edible electronics could help shield you from food poisoning

From helping detect cancer cells to acting as a kick-ass superconductor, graphene is capable of all kinds of amazing feats. But how does it taste? Believe it or not, that’s one of the questions being asked by researchers at Rice University — and the answers may turn out to be a bit more profound than you may think.

What chemist James Tour and his lab have been investigating are ways to laser graphene onto food for what may turn out to be the start of a revolution in “edible electronics.”

This laser-induced graphene (LIG) technique involves making a type of graphene foam out of tiny cross-linked graphene flakes. This can then be written onto various materials, lending ordinary foodstuffs like toast (or non-consumables like paper, cardboard, fabrics and more) some of the amazing abilities that come with graphene. The technique reportedly works extremely well on coconut shells and potato skins, due to their high level of lignin, a certain class of complex organic polymer.

“We use a technique that first converts the material into amorphous carbon, like burned toast or burned carbon, by a first laser pulse, and then a second and third pulse convert the newly formed amorphous carbon into laser-induced graphene,” Tour told Digital Trends. “The entire process takes a millisecond. We do this by defocusing the laser so that there are overlapping spots as it rides along, and the overlaps are equivalent to multiple laser pulses.”

graphene on toast grapheneontoast
Jeff Fitlow/Rice University
Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

But why exactly would you want to add a superthin film of graphene onto your toast, even if it is supposedly safe to eat? According to Tour, these graphene markers could act as sensors to reveal the path that food has taken from farm to table — or even to let you know if the food is safe to eat or has a bacteria like E. coli. “If you have ever had food poisoning, one needs to say no more,” Tour said. Applying the same technique to fabrics or paper could create straightforward sensors for tracking movement.

“All of our LIG is being commercialized,” he said. “First is LIG films that kill microbes for water purification. Next [is] likely flexible electronics, next on clothes.”

A paper describing the work was published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: inflatable backpacks and robotic submarines

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

Want to save your favorite film? Here's how to fix a scratched DVD or CD

A scratched edition of your favorite DVD is no good, but our guide will show you how to fix a scratched DVD, whether you prefer to repair it using a smattering of peanut butter or Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser.
Smart Home

The best dorm gadgets of 2018

Want to outfit your dorm or college apartment with only the best (and coolest) tech? Take a look at the best dorm gadgets for 2018, from excellent cooking gadgets to the latest phone tech - and everything in between.

How to transfer your contacts between iPhone and Android devices

There's nothing worse than getting a new phone and realizing you don't have any of your old contacts listed. Luckily, it's an easy problem to solve. Here's how to transfer your contact list to your new device.
Emerging Tech

Science says waste beer could help us live on Mars

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a new super-insulating gel, created from beer waste, which could one day be used for building greenhouse-like habitats on Mars.
Emerging Tech

Engineers have made a new type of lithium battery that won’t explode

While statistically rare, the lithium-ion batteries used in mobile devices have been known to burst into flames. Researchers from University of Michigan have been working to change that.
Emerging Tech

Genetically engineered bacteria paint microscopic masterpieces

By engineering E. coli bacteria to respond to light, scientists at the University of Rome have guided it like tiny drones toward patterns that depict Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Boring Company wants to dig a tunnel to Dodger Stadium

Elon Musk's Boring Company wants to build a high-speed transportation tunnel connecting Dodger Stadium to a nearby Metro station. The system would run 150-mph passenger pods between the stadium and a terminus to the west.
Emerging Tech

Watch as a ‘lifeguard drone’ rescues a swimmer struggling at sea

These days, drones are finding a range of roles in a myriad of fields. Lifeguards, for example, are making use of the drone's ability to quickly deploy flotation devices while also offering an eye in the sky to survey the scene.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? Here are the best drones on the market right now

To help you navigate the increasingly large and ever-changing landscape of consumer UAVs, here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Experiment suggests that the best robot bosses could be jerks

Researchers have been investigating how future robot bosses can coax the most productivity out of us flesh-and-blood employees. The sad answer? Quite possibly by behaving like jerks.
Emerging Tech

VR experience shows caregivers what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s disease

Los Angeles-based VR startup Embodied Labs has developed a virtual experience that puts users in the shoes of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia in the U.S.
Emerging Tech

Welcome to the uncanny valley: This robot head shows lifelike expressions

SEER is a robot head that is capable of recognizing the facial expressions of the people that it interacts with, and then mirroring their same expression back at them. Check it out.