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Researchers develop reusable, paper-based lycopene sensors

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    11th Nov, 2022


A team of researchers at the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), Mohali, has developed a nano-biosensor for detecting ‘lycopene’.

What is lycopene?

  • Lycopene is a type of organic pigment called a carotenoid.
  • It is synthesized by plants and microorganisms but cannot be synthesized by the human body and can only be obtained via diet.
  • It gives some vegetables and fruits (e.g., tomatoes) a red colour.
  • Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that might help protect cells from damage. It's found in tomato, watermelon, red-orange, pink grapefruit, apricot, papaya, and guava.
  • It is a potent antioxidant that helps prevent cancer and heart disease.
  • It may interfere with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Cancer patients are therefore suggested to use lycopene supplements with caution.


About the Discovery:

  • The develop Nano-biosensor uses a portable smartphone-based upconverting reusable fluorescent paper strip.
  • The reusable, paper-based strip may help make the lycopene detection process easy, cheap, and less time-consuming.
  • The biosensor (transparent strip) offers minimal scattering with maximum sensitivity in comparison to previous paper strips.
  • The study has been published by the American Chemical Society.

Upconversion Nanoparticles (UCNP):

  • Upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) are a unique class of optical nanomaterials that exhibit photon upconversion.
    • Upconversion is a process where light can be emitted with photon energies higher than the light generating the excitation.
      • An example is the conversion of infrared light to visible light.
    • In photon upconversion, two or more incident photons of relatively low energy are absorbed and converted into one emitted photon with higher energy.
  • The developed transparent Upconversion nanoparticle (UCNP) strip is sensitive to lycopene with a detection limit as low as 10 NM.
    • A simple smartphone camera can be used for detection.

Effect of degradation of Lycopene on Tomato:

Other methods of determining lycopene in food or biological samples:

  • UV-Visible spectrophotometry
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Reverse-phase liquid chromatography
  • Supercritical fluid chromatography
  • Matrix-assisted desorption ionization
  • The undesirable Biodegradation of lycopene not only affects the attractive color of the final products but also their nutritive value.
  • The main cause of lycopene degradation in tomato dehydration is isomerization and oxidation.
  • As a result, the quality of the produce is rated based on the lycopene present in it and is priced accordingly.

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