MSc thesis project proposal

On Package Food Decay Indicator

An estimated 1.3 billion tons of food, or roughly 30 percent of global production, is lost or wasted annually (source: UN Food and Agricultural Organization)Assignment

The logistics of food transportation and protection is significantly improved by food packaging. However, packaged food products experience some level of deterioration(decay) with the passing of time. Therefore, on packaged food products a printed expiration date indicates how long a product will be of optimum quality. Food decay is due to organic molecule breakdown that takes place spontaneously. But each food product has its own characteristic decay rate where the combined effect of temperature and time (the thermal budget) are the main parameters. And because the thermal budget during logistic operations is not precisely known, the indicated expiration date is an estimate and often too conservative.

This project aims to develop of a cost-effective sensor that monitors the thermal budget during logistic operations of packaged food. The sensor is added or printed on the food package and can be read electronically.

Like the decay of quality in food is a function of the thermal budget, so is the loss of charge in an electronic capacitor. The core of the project is to develop a capacitor with a dielectric material that shows similar loss of charge as quality decay for a given food product when exposed to a given thermal budget. This capacitor is added to the food package and experiences the same thermal budget as the food product.

Hence the electric charge in the capacitor at a given point in time is a measure of the quality of the food. For a functional food quality sensor, the sensing capacitor needs to be integrated into a low-cost circuit to enable charging and wireless read-out, but this is beyond the scope of the project. Within this project, a proof of principle needs to be demonstrated, further research could lead to the development of different dielectrics for different kind of food products.


This experimental project will involve:
  • An initial review of the state-of-the-art on the charge loss in dielectric materials.
  • Dielectric material selections for metal-insulator-metal (MIM) capacitors
  • Fabrication of MIM capacitors on silicon wafers
  • Charge loss measurements at various thermal budgets
  • Comprehensive and periodical reporting of the overall work


A background in Electrical engineering or Physics or interest in these topics
Practical attitude towards designing and executing processes in the EKL cleanroom
Good understanding of electronic measurements
Independent worker and good team player

Contact Henk van Zeijl

Electronic Components, Technology and Materials Group

Department of Microelectronics

Last modified: 2021-04-13