B.C. teens invent 'smart cutlery' that scans for bacteria, allergens, nutrition

A pair of B.C. teens is hoping to change the way we eat by creating cutlery capable of scanning each bite for bacteria, allergens and nutritional content.

See Full Article

Designed by 16-year-olds Madeleine Liu and Angela Wang, Culitech cutlery uses technology called "near-infrared spectroscopy" to analyze food's molecular breakdown.

The compact cutlery comes in fork, spoon or chopstick form, and each utensil features a detachable mini-spectrometer.

The spectrometer uses infrared waves to examine food's makeup, the inventors explain in an online video.

Because different types of food molecules vibrate in different ways, they each create a unique "optical signature," which the cutlery can recognize and use to identify what's in the meal, the teens say.

"Each food molecule vibrates in its own way to create the optical signature, and then you have to match it up to a database to see what type of food it is and if it's an allergen or not," Liu told CTV's News Channel on Tuesday.

Liu, a Grade 11 student at Vancouver's West Point Grey Academy, says she was inspired to create the product when she saw how friends and family struggled with allergies and infections caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.

According to the Australia-based Helicobacter Foundation, Helicobacter pylori bacteria are believed to be transmitted orally, and can infect the stomach and lead to ulcers.

"We knew that there are Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the world and it's especially common in China, where it spreads through cutlery," Liu said on CTV News Channel on Tuesday. "We wanted to think of a way to prevent it before it spreads."

In North America, where the bacteria is less common, Liu says Culitech cutlery can be used to identify allergens and provide nutritional information.

"There is a need and this is the way, I think, of combating the issue," she said.

Liu and Wang took home the top prize when they unveiled their smart utensils at Startup Weekend Vancouver in November.

Now, they're working to create a final product and get it to market.

The technology is still in development, but Liu says she hopes that, one day, it'll be available for sale.

She and her partner envision customers buying their own personal sets of the cutlery, and bringing it with them when they eat out, in the same way that people with allergies keep an EpiPen on hand at all times.

After a meal, the spectrometer can detach from the spoon, fork, or chopsticks, to make it easier to clean the utensils.

"We think of it as a product that can be carried, either in the household or brought with you to a restaurant." she said.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Ont. teacher leading effort to build roof over villa in ancient Pompeii

    Tech & Science CTV News
    An Ontario high school teacher is spearheading a campaign to build a roof over one of the ancient homes in Pompeii, in an effort to preserve the prized archeological site where a well-known figure in Latin education once lived. Source
  • Warming to make thunderstorms larger and more frequent

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Summer thunderstorms in North America will likely be larger, wetter and more frequent in a warmer world, dumping 80 per cent more rain in some areas and worsening flooding, a new study says. Source
  • Endangered orcas compete with seals, sea lions for salmon

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SEATTLE -- Harbour seals, sea lions and some fish-eating killer whales have been rebounding along the Northeast Pacific Ocean in recent decades. But that boom has come with a trade-off: They're devouring more of the salmon prized by a unique but fragile population of endangered orcas. Source
  • 20 Canadian ideas to improve child health win support from Grand Challenges

    Tech & Science CBC News
    An Uber-like connection that can help get pregnant women in Kenya to health care; a 3D printer project to provide orthotic devices for Nepali children with clubfoot and scoliosis; and a microchip that can figure out what pathogen is causing diarrhea in children in Bangladesh. Source
  • Gold leaf from Napoleon's crown fetches $735,000 at auction

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A gold laurel leaf removed from the crown Napoleon Bonaparte wore to his coronation sold for US$735,000 at an auction in Paris on Sunday. The sale price far exceeded the estimate of between US$117,000 and US$176,000, Osenat auction house said. Source
  • Ontario post-secondary school launches Mohawk language learning app

    Tech & Science CTV News
    OHSWEKEN, Ont. -- A southwestern Ontario post-secondary school has launched an app to help people learn Mohawk. Six Nations Polytechnic says the app for Apple and Android devices comes on the heels of another successful launch last year that taught the Cayuga language. Source
  • Drone delivery service one step closer to reality in northern Ontario community

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A remote northern Ontario community got its first look at drone delivery technology earlier this month. Toronto-based company Drone Delivery Canada travelled to the James Bay Coast recently to run tests, for a partnership with Moose Cree First Nation. Source
  • McKenna, Mulroney to mark 30-year anniversary of Montreal Protocol

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONTREAL - Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and former prime minister Brian Mulroney will be in Montreal today to mark the 30th anniversary of a landmark treaty to protect the earth's ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol was an international agreement signed in the city on Sept. Source
  • Purdue professor receives $5M grant for grain research

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University professor has received a $5 million grant to help develop hybrid grain seeds that will resist parasite weeds. Gebisa Ejeta received the four-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Journal and Courier reported. Source
  • Six Nations school launches app that teaches people to speak Mohawk

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A Six Nations school is doing its part to keep Indigenous languages alive in the most modern of ways — with an app. 'Our languages all have a beauty to them in their sound and cadence, and the melody they carry with them. Source