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Magic or technology? Spectroscopy!

Coffee beans in cup

Is it magic? Or technology? At the EHV Innovation Cafe last week, one of the founders of MantiSpectra, Dr. Maurangelo Petruzzella, performed a Magic show - or rather - a Science Show. Using different types of coffee beans, he demonstrated in real time one of the applications of the small NIR (Near Infrared) spectral sensor, ChipSense. And the upcoming SpectraPod, the magic box that contains everything we need to measure materials around us. Such as type, origin and roast of coffee beans.

The mechanism behind a magic trick is often kept secret for years. Clarke's Third Law says: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Spectroscopy is not magic; it has been around for over sixty years.

The trick very well known, and the number of applications is increasing exponentially. This technology is the basis of MantiSpectra, the TU/e spin-off of TU/e researchers Maurangelo Petruzzella, Francesco Pagliano and Andrea Fiore. The startup develops innovative spectral detection equipment to measure and decode invisible light signals.

Invisible light

The human eye detects visible light, which allows us to see the color and size of objects. But there is also invisible light, such as infrared radiation, which our eyes cannot see and which is emitted by food, medicines and other materials. This invisible light can contain hidden information about chemical composition. Therefore, in many industries, such as the agri-food sector, being able to detect this light would be invaluable.

Praying mantis lobster

Replication of the mantis shrimp's "super vision" is the basis of MantiSpectra's technologies. "The sensors use a similar principle of measuring different parts of the spectrum using different receptors," Petruzzella said.

"The visible spectrum provides some information, but measuring at near-infrared wavelengths provides much more information for many important problems, and this can be used to better define organic and inorganic substances in agri-food and health care," Fiore adds.

NIR (Near Infrared)

MantiSpectra's approach to the mantis shrimp's eye is a chip about 1 millimeter by 1 millimeter with sixteen electronic photoreceptors, or pixels, each sensitive to a different wavelength range in the near-infrared. Despite its small size, the chip's sensors open up a world of possibilities, especially when it comes to monitoring the freshness of fruits and vegetables before harvest.

Science Show

The live show was performed in Eindhoven (NL) but you can watch it again here, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee!