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Research Spotlight: Standoff Raman Detection of Food Contamination

Thursday, January 29, 2015

This innovation represents an application of Raman spectrometry as a standoff detection tool for sampling adulterants in food from a safe, non-contact distance of 1-10 meters. The technology has the potential to be important for field and forensic applications for foods requiring a minimal sample preparation protocol.


Unlike the traditional Raman approach, this standoff technique has remained largely unexplored for food safety and food defense applications in detecting biological and chemical agents, agrochemicals, industrial wastes, heavy metals, and fraudulent substitution ingredients in the field or facility settings from safe distances.  Current detection methods require sample-preparation and testing protocol that is elaborate, time-consuming and laboratory-based.

To demonstrate the viability of the system, this project will target contaminants commonly found in Economically Motivated Adulteration use cases: melamine in milk, calcium carbonate in flour, and inferior olive oil substitutes.

Field-Detection of Food Adulteration


This standoff Raman system involves a laser unit and a mini-spectrometer with a CCD detector which is coupled with a telescope. The complete standoff system is portable and can be operated from the back of a truck using batteries or a gas-powered generator. The validity of the technique is being characterized for standoff distances in the range of 1-10 meters and for typical concentrations of 1-10%. 


This mobile platform can be deployed in multiple field-based settings and situations including emergency response operations. The only Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) that is needed is laser safety goggles.

Key Users

• Customs and Border Protection
• Transportation Security Administration
• Department of Defense
• Emergency Responders
• Food and Agriculture Laboratories
• Food Industry


• Department of Defense

Project Dates

• 2014-2016

Co-Principal Investigators:

Anup Sharma, Ph.D.
Professor of Physics
Alabama A&M University


Download Project Spotlight


This project is funded through the National Center for Food Protection and Defense by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s Office of University Programs through Award Number 2010-ST-061-FD0001.