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April 10th, 2008
Byron Brehm-Stecher, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, has some big ideas for his work with tiny particles. His latest research project will allow him to study the potential of using silver nanoparticles to improve the safety of the world's food supply.
Although the particles can't be added directly to foods, the ultimate goal of this project is to develop food-related applications such as microbe-resistant fabrics or non-biofouling surfaces. The research, he said, could have a large impact on the safety of foods.
"Through our work, we hope to gain a greater understanding of how these materials affect microbial structure or function," Brehm-Stecher said. "This may lead to new approaches for killing foodborne pathogens and enhancing food safety. For example, silver nanoparticles are already being used in food packaging to soak up the plant-ripening hormone ethylene, extending the shelf life of fruits. The science is at a basic point right now, but we expect that it will translate into something more applied in the future. I'm looking forward to extending this as far as the questions we have will take us."
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