Researchers Develop Traffic Light-Inspired Caffeine Detector
August 8, 2013

Researchers Develop Traffic Light-Inspired Caffeine Detector

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

While caffeine has become essential for a large portion of the workforce, researchers have developed a new instrument that will be of interest to anyone concerned they might be consuming too much of the popular stimulant on a daily basis.

The instrument in question is known as Caffeine Orange, and according to its creators, it is a fluorescent caffeine sensor that is used in combination with a detection kit. When the stimulant is present in various drinks and/or solutions, the detection kit lights up in much the same way that a traffic light does, they added.

Caffeine Orange was developed by a team of researchers led by Professor Young-Tae Chang from the National University of Singapore and Professor Yoon-Kyoung Cho from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in Korea. A paper detailing their research appears in the July 23 edition of the journal Scientific Reports.

"Caffeine has attracted abundant attention due to its extensive existence in beverages and medicines. However, to detect it sensitively and conveniently remains a challenge, especially in resource-limited regions," the authors wrote in their study. They explain that their device is a "novel aqueous phase fluorescent caffeine sensor" which exhibits 250-fold fluorescence enhancement upon caffeine activation and high selectivity."

The caffeine sensor and its companion detection kit are non-toxic and can be used with just the naked eye, the researchers said. It can sense various caffeine concentrations, reporting its findings based on color changes upon irradiation with the detection kit, then emitting a light to the beverage with a green-colored laser pointer.

If a drink or solution has a high concentration of caffeine, it turns red. Beverages with moderate caffeine concentrations turn yellow, and those with low amounts of the stimulant turn green, they said.

While there are health benefits linked to caffeine, overdosing on the substance could lead to caffeine intoxication, the authors said. Symptoms of caffeine intoxication include anxiety, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and in severe cases, hallucinations, depression, or even death could result.

"Prior to this caffeine 'traffic-light' designator, no practically applicable and customer-friendly caffeine detection methods have been reported," the research team wrote. They added their detection kit had several advantages over other such devices in that it is easy to construct, easy to use, safe, fast and consumer friendly.

"The whole kit requires just one syringe equipped with reverse-phase materials and several washing solutions. Its incorporation into automated system has enhanced the handling even greater," the authors said. No organic solvent is used in the extraction process, the procedure takes less than one minute, and it can be used to extract caffeine from different beverages that are both chemically and physically complicated, they added.