WARF: P150240US02

Food & Drug Safety: Time-Temperature Indicator for Perishables


Sundaram Gunasekaran, Yi-Cheng Wang

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing nanoreactors for detecting the heat exposure of a food product, pharmaceutical or other perishable good to ensure its quality for consumers.
OVERVIEWAn important criterion for assessing food safety is the amount of time it spends in the ‘danger zone’ (40-120° F). A 2013 food policy report found that more than 90 percent of Americans throw out food prematurely, and it is estimated that per capita food loss in the U.S. is $390 per year. The report recommends the development of smart labels, such as time-temperature sensors, that indicate the storage history of a product and convey useful safety information to consumers while reducing food waste.
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers have developed nanoreactors that can detect exposure of a perishable good to an undesired temperature. The device comprises a metal precursor in a stabilizing carrier such as gelatin or chitosan. Upon exposure to heat, the metal precursor forms nanoparticles that can be detected visually or spectroscopically by a change in color, peak wavelength or peak absorbance, as well as the size, number or shape of the nanoparticles that form. The nanoreactors could be applied to product packaging and ‘switched on’ to begin temperature tracking.
  • Indicator for safety/quality of food, biological therapeutics, small molecule drugs and other perishables
  • Such devices could be used by manufacturers, distributors, retailers, consumers, food suppliers, restaurants and other institutions, e.g., hospitals and schools.
  • Potential to enhance product safety and reduce waste
  • Visual/color change is easy for consumers to understand.
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTNanoreactors have been developed and tested visually and using UV-vis spectroscopy.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Mark Staudt at or 608-960-9845.
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Since its founding in 1925 as the patenting and licensing organization for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, WARF has been working with business and industry to transform university research into products that benefit society. WARF intellectual property managers and licensing staff members are leaders in the field of university-based technology transfer. They are familiar with the intricacies of patenting, have worked with researchers in relevant disciplines, understand industries and markets, and have negotiated innovative licensing strategies to meet the individual needs of business clients.