Using organic LED in intelligent food packaging for quality monitoring of meat products co-financed by the European Union and Greek national funds through the Operational Program Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, under the call RESEARCH-CREATE-INNOVATE (project code: T2ΕΔΚ-04175)

The technological and IT explosion has a significant impact on all active domains in the production and distribution of consumer goods. Accordingly, food industry must be in constant search of solutions for the improvement of food management via the use of state-of-the art technologies and respond to modern requests for better and more accurate information of the consumer. Intelligent packages incorporate a certain type of information technology and constitute a technological advancement in food packaging, contributing to the constant monitoring of product quality. So far, intelligent packaging may be implemented through chemical sensors and indicators. However, recent technological breakthroughs and ongoing scientific research offer the prospect of developing a new generation of sensors, or redesigning conventional sensors, challenging the food packaging domain. The aim of this project is the development of intelligent packaging that provides continuous and on-line information to manufacturers and consumers regarding food quality and package integrity through the entire supply chain. To achieve that we will apply Organic photonics based on the recent technological breakthroughs in the domains of printed electronics, carbon nanotechnology, silicon photonics, and biotechnology (biosensors), which offer the prospect of developing a new generation of sensors, or redesigning conventional sensors. Flexible printed chemical sensors, composed of a receptor printed on top of a printed transducer, undoubtedly have the potential to revolutionize the development and production of intelligent packaging. The main goal will be the monitoring of changes in concentration of chemical species closely related to the food quality by molecular probes of optical output. The latter will be achieved through the predominant use of fluorescent probes and electroluminescent devices (OLEDs), for color-coding reading. The individual objectives will be: 1) Selection of target analytes and calibration of sensing elements, 2) Incorporation of sensors in packaging material, 3) Development of the transducer and 4) In situ application of developed sensors.

We will also evaluate the effectiveness of developing a multi-sensor that can give more information about complex spoilage changes than sensors or indicators based on monitoring one single quality indicator compound. Food specific models need to be developed for translating the measured information with the quality perception of the consumer. So far, a limited number of thin film devices have been proposed as colour indicators for monitoring alterations in food packages, which monitor the concentration of selected chemicals or the thermal history. The novelty of this work relies on the predominant use of OLEDs for colour-coded reading, instead of absorbance spectrum changes for read-out as in almost all the devices proposed so far. The OLEDs-based optical output can be realized in different ways. The added value of intelligent packaging as a means for continuous and non-invasive quality monitoring is also associated with the optimization of product logistics. New intelligent packaging applications providing continuous information on the food condition or packaging integrity is not only beneficial for the customer, but also enables the detection of calamities and possible abuse through the entire supply chain, from farm to fork. This undoubtedly results in a safer and more efficient supply chain, reducing food loss and waste and preventing unnecessary transport and logistics from an early stage. In addition, the applicability of smart labels is hardly accessible to SMEs that are not able to perform research in that field and conduct optimization of beneficial development to their range of products, e.g., compliance with EU Reg. 1169/2011 on food labeling and date marking (i.e., ‘best before’ vs ‘used by’). Collectively, the food industry can be benefitted via improved logistics, warehouse management systems, and transportation management systems to distant places around the world.