Food Safety Innovation Wins Prize at Photonics21 Meeting

A report on research into optical techniques to improve food safety by detecting possible cancer precursors in potatoes and peanuts brought recognition to PhD candidate.

March 30, 2017
BRUSSELS, Belgium, and BELLINGHAM, Washington — A report on research into optical techniques to improve food safety by detecting possible cancer precursors in potatoes and peanuts brought recognition and a cash award to Vrije Universiteit Brussel PhD student Lien Smeesters in March. Smeesters was awarded the €5,000 2017 Photonics21 Student Innovation Award, sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and Hamamatsu, at the Photonics21 annual meeting in Brussels last week.

The meeting ran Tuesday and Wednesday, 28 and 29 March.

In her research, Smeesters uses optical sensing techniques including 1- and 2-photon induced fluorescence spectroscopy to noninvasively scan cooked potato fries, corn-based snacks, and other foodstuffs. With this innovative technique, several tons of products can be screened per hour, without the use of any chemical additives or dyes.

“During the analytical process, when the food products are in free-fall they are scanned by laser,” Smeesters explained at the award presentation during the event welcome session on 28 March.

“Immediately after the scanning, the collected data are processed and the contaminated or unwanted products can be immediately removed by the use of a burst of air. Using this configuration we can successfully classify the healthy and contaminated food kernels with an accuracy that fulfills European food safety standards.”

Smeesters is a member of the SPIE VUB Student Chapter, the largest SPIE Student Chapter in Western Europe, and has authored several papers for SPIE conferences and publications. She is a member of Professor Hugo Thienpont’s research group.

Recently appointed Photonics21 president Aldo Kamper, CEO of Osram Opto Semiconductors, opened the two-day event. He emphasized the significance of the organization’s newly published impact report on the Photonics Public-Private Partnership (PPP) established among the European commission, the photonics industry, and the R&D community and stressed the significance of annual meeting’s theme: #next_photonics — Drive the Change.

The report shows that in the past few years the PPP has been doing quite well in terms of stimulating industry growth and creating jobs, Kamper said. The task for this week’s meeting would be to “look a bit to the future”: to consider the priorities for the next three years through 2020 and beyond to the FP9 framework successor to Horizon 2020.

Since 2014, Photonics21 has acted as the voice of the European Technology Platform Photonics21 and its more than 2,000 members in working with the European Commission in the Photonics PPP.

Khalil Rouhana, Deputy Director-General in the European Commission department for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), gave a keynote talk on digitizing European industry. Rouhana leads overall strategic orientation and management of DG CONNECT, with a special focus on research and innovation programs, digital industry, and the digital transformation of the public sector and services.

SPIE Europe Executive Director Eugene Arthurs serves on the Photonics21 Board of Stakeholders.