If you’ve ever been annoyed by those little stickers on your apples, or wished for a sensor that would tell you whether that cantaloupe is actually ripe, we have news for you: researchers at Rice University have developed a technique that they say could solve both of those problems. The key is using lasers to print tiny tags made of graphene, a substance that is stable even in a single-molecule layer.
“It conducts electricity, and it has very high mobility, allowing information to move very rapidly through the structure,” explained James Tour, the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, and Professor of Computer Science and Materials Science and NanoEngineering at Rice University. “It can allow the passage of information much faster than silicon, so it has these enormous properties that are attractive to people. It’s extremely strong, even though it’s only one atom thick.”
Using graphene, one could mark each piece of fruit with an RFID tag that can record where the fruit was grown and the places it traveled on its way to the table. If one included a sensor, the fruit could tell you whether it sat in a hot truck or had E. coli on the surface.