Research – University of Copenhagen

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New X-ray Imaging Modalities for safe and high quality Food 

High quality products constitute the main part of Danish food exports. This makes controlling product quality and food safety a vital part of the Danish food production.

This calls for the development of sensitive and efficient techniques that assess the quality early in the production process without destroying the product. Today, various optical inspection methods, including near infrared spectroscopy and hyperspectral vision, are widely applied but are far from sufficient, as they will only probe the surface of the product. For scanning the inside of the product also, X-ray imaging provides a non-destructive and fast technique that can be implemented directly on the production line without having to remove the food product from its packaging.

However, traditional X-ray scanning often does not have sufficient sensitivity to distinguish small variations in density in soft tissue or provide sufficient contrast from i.e. foreign objects of low density.

Therefore, to overcome these limitations, we propose to develop new X-ray imaging modalities specifically aimed at food applications that will allow different contrast mechanisms to distinguish objects not possible today. These modalities will be based on phase-contrast and dark-field X-ray imaging techniques that have emerged in the last decade as a result of fundamental research at X-ray synchrotron radiation facilities.

Read more about these imaging techniques here

The development will be done in close collaboration with world leading research groups thus providing the Danish food industry with direct access to applications of the emerging imaging modalities. Danish high quality food producing companies as well as Danish manufacturers of X-ray inspection equipment for food industry will be contributing to the project. This collaboration gives the Danish industry a unique opportunity to be the first in the food sector to exploit the new X-ray modalities.

The main results of the project.

The main results of the project will be to develop the X-ray grating interferometry technique specifically towards food application and to identify the areas within the Danish food industry with the highest technological and commercial impact. The project will focus on three issues:

1. Improving the detectability of low density foreign bodies, incidentally present in food products, like pieces of paper, plastic, wood and insects.

2. Development of new modalities for assessment of quality traits in food production like fatty acid composition, connective tissue and tenderness development.

3. Develop a proof-of-principle of a conveyor belt solution that could form the basis for real product development.

This will require finding the detection limits of the technique for relevant food applications using synchrotron radiation sources, implementing the techniques at laboratory setups for further development and finally implement the knowledge in the conveyor belt solution . The results will be explored by the Danish sensor system industry for providing useful solutions to the food industry.