• An affordable, easy-to-use handheld sensor, soon to enter the market, can indicate the presence of bacterial contaminants in food in seconds.

Xibus Systems, formed in 2018, is leading the initiative, working to bring a fast, easy, and affordable food safety sensing technology to food industry users and everyday consumers. The development of the technology, based on MIT research, was supported by two commercialization grants through the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab’s J-WAFS Solutions program. 

The technology is based on specialized droplets — called Janus emulsions — that can be used to detect bacterial contamination in food. The use of Janus droplets to detect bacteria was developed by a research team led by Tim Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry, and Alexander Klibanov, the Novartis Professor of Biological Engineering and Chemistry.

Swager and researchers in his lab originally developed the method for making Janus emulsions in 2015. Their idea was to create a synthetic particle that has the same dynamic qualities as the surface of living cells. 

Swager says:

“We were thrilled by the design. It is a completely new sensing method that could really transform the food safety sensing market. It showed faster results than anything currently available on the market, and could still be produced at very low cost.”

Janus emulsions respond exceptionally quickly to contaminants and provide quantifiable results that are visible to the naked eye or can be read via a smartphone sensor. 

Hartshorn says:

“The technology is rooted in very interesting science. What we are doing is marrying this scientific discovery to an engineered product that meets a genuine need and that consumers will actually adopt.”

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