You Are What You Eat

By Morgan Stashick, College of Engineering



Bryan Chin, faculty member in Auburn University's materials engineering program and lead investigator at Auburn's Detection and Food Safety Center, is watching what we eat. He is investigating and developing autonomous sensors that detect and capture pathogens in food to help eliminate contamination before food hits our plates or the grocery shelves.

Chin's research, "Autonomous Sentinels for the Detection and Capture of Invasive Pathogens," looks at a system that mimics the function of naturally occurring biological defenses, such as white blood cells, by detecting and removing invasive bacteria, spores and toxins in food, as well as in liquid environments. The sensors allow detection to begin at the source, monitoring crops from the field where bacteria such as salmonella originate and spread. The wireless sensors are approximately the size of a dust particle, Chin explains, but because they are magnetic, they are relatively simple to handle.

"We have biosensors that are up to one millimeter in size, which most eyes can see without a problem," he said. "The size we place in water and food products is less than 100 micrometers. Most humans are unable to see them without magnification."

In addition to identifying food contamination, the project could provide a significant impact on new devices for food safety, biosecurity, home care and environmental monitoring. Chin's work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

To learn more about Chin's research and Auburn's Detection and Food Safety Center, visit

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Last Updated: Jun. 6, 2012

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