Space laser has food anti-counterfeiting potential

Researcher Ali Hussain in labUK researchers say a laser device designed for use on Mars could detect fake honey, olive oil and other foods.

RAL Space built the laser device to detect trace amounts of gas in very small samples on Mars. The same approach could detect fake honey and other foods by laser scanning carbon dioxide released when a few milligrams are burnt.

"You take a laser, whose optical frequency or 'color' can be continuously adjusted, beam it at a gas sample, and detect the level passing through the gas," said Damien Weidmann, leader of the laser spectroscopy team at RAL Space, said.

The European Space Agency is funding research into potential terrestrial applications of the device through its technology transfer programme. RAL Space will use the cash to demonstrate how the laser could work on earth in the hope it will attract interest from a company.

In the seven years RAL Space worked to make the device suitable for space travel it turned the cumbersome technology into a small, lightweight and robust device. These characteristics were essential to use in space, but also increase its usefulness in anti-counterfeiting applications.

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