Two professors from the University of Dayton are working in a research partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio to prevent food contamination.

Dr. Erick Vasquez and Dr. Yvonne Sun’s team hopes to find a new approach to prevent food contamination, and that idea involves using nanotechnology to create devices coated with disinfectants.

A $752,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding the project with hopes of minimizing the number of recalls due to listeria and other food contaminants.

Listeria bacteria is often found in raw or processed vegetables, fruits and meats.

Due to this being a new approach it will be a learning experience for everyone along the way.

“We don’t know how much or what is the perfect amount or the proper amount that needs to be added to eradicate biofilms, right? The same goes with the magnetic fields,” said Dr. Vasquez. “Where is the proper magnetic field? Do we need low-fill intensities, high freely intensities? We eventually hope to discover what is the optimal treatment.”

Dr. Vasquez will be coating the materials with disinfectants after UT-San Antonio makes the nanotechnology devices that are 1,000 smaller than the thickness of a sheet of paper.

Once complete, Dr. Yvonne Sun will grow listeria biofilms in her lab to see how they respond to various surfaces and the nano devices.

Dr. Sun says students will play a critical role in this project.

“We want to make sure we do a good job mentoring them and training them and engaging these students in the research, in real world research,” said Dr. Sun. “So I think getting them trained to making sure we do a good job will be a challenge.”

Despite the researching being done to prevent contamination on surfaces and in food, Dr. Sun feels food in America is still safe to eat.

The project is set to begin sometime in 2023 and is expected to last for three years.