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Monday, 20 December 2021

MP Food Watching wins the 12th edition of the UAB Idea Generation Programme

The project submitted by Dr Begonya Marcos, researcher at IRTA, and Oscar Hernando Moriones, PhD student in the ICN2 Inorganic Nanoparticles Group, proposes a novel methodology based on hyperspectral vision to analyse food and detect the presence of microplastics.

The final event of the 12th edition of the Idea Generation Programme, dedicated to Microplastics and the health and environmental threats they pose, was held on 15 December at UAB Research Park and broadcast on their Youtube channel. After the welcome by Prof. Armand Sánchez Bonastre, Vice-Rector for Research and Technology Transfer of UAB, and the presentation of the Programme by its coordinators Júlia Palma and David Hernández, the winner project out of the three finalists was announced.

MP Food Watching, developed by Dr Begonya Marcos, researcher at the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA) and specialised in food packaging, and Oscar Hernando Moriones, doctoral student in the ICN2 Inorganic Nanoparticles Group led by ICREA Prof. Víctor F. Puntes, was awarded the 2021 Idea Generation Programme Prize. MP Food Watching offers an innovative solution to determine the presence of microplastics in food, using a methodology based on hyperspectral vision. The other two shortlisted projects were: Qu4tRe, which proposed a logistics method for distribution, recovery and cleaning of plastic packaging to avoid single use; and EMANS, which developed a sampling device capable of rapidly detecting microplastics on different surfaces.

Idea Generation Programme: Microplastics

The Idea Generation Programme is an initiative of the UAB Research Park (Parc de Recerca UAB) that aims to foster the entrepreneurial spirit of research staff and PhD students, from all scientific areas of the UAB campus, and to support their process of shaping ideas to provide answers to challenges proposed by industry. This year’s edition, the twelfth, focused on generating innovative solutions to address the threats posed by microplastics to human health and our planet.

Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long, which are either produced as a result of degradation of larger plastic debris or manufactured directly as such, as is the case of microbeads added in hygiene and cleaning products. These tiny particles easily pass through water filtration systems, end up in rivers and seas, and can be ingested or inhaled by both animals and humans.

The projects submitted to the contest addressed this issue from different angles, proposing new methods for analysing and studying the presence of microplastics in the environment and their possible accumulation in the body, as well as ideas for reducing the use of plastics and microplastics. The Programme helps the contestants develop their ideas, validate them and produce a prototype.

About MP Food Watching

MP Food Watching proposes an analysis methodology based on image capture with hyperspectral vision technology that allows detecting the presence of microplastics (MPs) directly in foodstuffs, with no pre-treatment of the samples. The currently used main MPs analysis techniques (FTIR and Raman) involve a high initial investment, sample pre-treatment to isolate MPs and time-consuming procedures.

The technology used by MP Food Watching will enable food companies to cut on costs and process time. In addition, the microplastics analysis can be tuned for different types of food and, in a second phase of the project, calibration software will be developed (and training made available) for companies with the capacity to carry out MPs analyses internally. From the third year onwards, the offer will be extended to other sectors such as cosmetics and textiles.

Watch the video of the final event here: