Scientists Turn Toast Into Edible Graphene Electronics

Now, you’ll be able to have your tech and eat it too!

By Ethan L. Johns
February 16, 2018

Image: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Imagine touching your phone to a piece of fruit. It has no packaging, yet your phone immediately shows you where the fruit was grown, how long it has been sitting on the shelf and whether or not it is contaminated with bacteria like E. coli.

These are just some of the potential applications that have been proposed by Rice University researchers, who, on Tuesday, published new research on “Laser-Induced Graphene” (LIG), a material that functions in electronic identification tags and sensors. More simply put? The tech revolution is about to be inside your belly.

Using a multiple-step process that involves a very large laser, the team managed to turn the carbon that exists on the surface of everyday objects (like toast, coconuts, wood and cork) into graphene, which exists in a single atomic layer of carbon atoms, arranged like a honeycomb.

Graphene is more conductive than copper, and can be used to create radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that are able to communicate with receivers in many popular consumer electronics.

“Very often, we don’t see the advantage of something until we make it available,” said the study’s lead researcher, chemist James Tour. “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.”

The same process was effective when attempted on cloth, so the technology also has potential uses in the garment industry. It’s possible that it could even be used as a heating element in clothing, according to Tour.

The million-dollar question, though, is whether or not something that has been found to be “200 times stronger than steel,” can actually be eaten. Then again, an atom-thick layer of anything is likely no match for the mandible of a hangry human.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns