Scientists at the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) discovered that reduced graphene oxide (rGO) can be used in a unique sensor to detect a deadly cancer-causing food toxin with high sensitivity.

The toxin, Aflatoxin B1, is a common contaminant in peanuts, chillies, cottonseed meal, corn, rice and other grains. Produced by a fungus, it is a potent liver carcinogen that damages the immune system in humans and animals.

Uncontrolled levels of aflatoxin plague around 4.5 billion people living in developing countries, in contrast to western countries where strict food regulations help protect against it. The sensor can be manufactured economically, is portable and when refrigerated, has a shelf-life of about two-three months. It could be suitably modified to detect other types of toxins as well.

The scientists say that rGO can easily bind to the protein-like structure of the toxin and produce an enhanced signal compared to other materials. It is 100 times more sensitive than conventional sensors. It can indicate toxin contamination even at a level 10 times lower than than its designated permissible limit in countries like India, U.S. and Europe.