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IIT Madras developed paper test kit that instantly detects chemicals, and adulterants in milk, juices

IIT Madras developed paper test kit that instantly detects chemicals, and adulterants in milk, juices

Could we ever imagine the presence of chemicals and adulterating agents such as urea, detergents, soap, starch, hydrogen peroxide, sodium-hydrogen-carbonate, and salt in the so-called “organic” and “farm-fresh” milk, fruit juices and cool drinks that we regularly consume? What if these chemicals were “staple ingredients” in our edible liquids? Researchers at IIT Madras have developed a simple, pocket-sized and cost-effective paper-based test that can detect all the above chemicals from a liquid sample, all in a duration of 30 seconds.

The flat rectangular test strip is said to fit conveniently in a palm and is made for home use. It has been developed by researchers from IIT Madras, led by Dr. Pallab Sinha Mahapatra, Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Dr Pallab and his team comprising Mr Subhashis Patari and Dr Priyankan Datta have developed this device for eventual use by the common people, to understand the quality of the liquids that they consume.

“This test kit is a three-dimensional rectangular strip, where the top portion comprises a slot where the liquid drops(to be tested)can be fed. The bottom side is a palette-like structure where there are multiple slots, each one capable of changing colour and denoting the presence of a particular chemical/adulterating agent. Sandwiched between the top and bottom layers, there is a material that will absorb the droplets of the sample and bring it in contact with the chemical sheets(individual test slots) in the bottom layers” Dr Pallab explained to WION. In simple terms, the test kit works like a pH paper, which changes colour in coming in contact with a liquid

According to the team, a liquid sample drop of even a few millilitres is adequate to carry out the test and deliver the result in 30 seconds. They also said that this was the most cost-effective method to test multiple common adulterating agents, for common people at home. However, the test does not determine the quantity of the adulterating agent, as is done with highly expensive equipment and advanced lab tests.

When WION queried about the certification, accuracy and sensitivity of the kit that they have developed, Dr Pallab said that the kit was quite sensitive and detected even small amounts of chemicals in edible liquids. However, he added that their kit was currently undergoing testing under laboratory conditions and is yet to receive a certification from an organization like the FSSAI( Food Safety and Standards Authority of India).

“We intend to complete the research and development and make this product available for the mass market as a home-test kit. For our lab purposes, we are now able to make the test kit for Rs.15 (approx. 20 cents), but when we get the certification and manufacture in larger numbers, the cost can be brought down further” Dr Pallab told WION. On an expected date for market roll-out, he said that it could be possible in a year or so.

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