Microwaves to monitor food contamination

Title of the research project

MIT-Food, Microwave Imaging Technology for Food Contamination Monitoring

Scientific area

Microwave imaging, Microwave devices and systems, food safety and security

Project coordinator

Francesca Vipiana


In the MIT-food project, we investigate the possibility to apply microwave imaging to food quality and safety monitoring. Our final goal is to realize a device for food contamination detection that is non-destructive, contactless, cost-efficient, totally safe for operators, and provides real-time and inline monitoring within the manufacturing chain.

Description of the research project 

Foreign body contamination in food is one of the major sources of complaints against food manufacturers, and can lead to injury, loss of brand loyalty and large recall expenses. Different technologies, such as X-ray or infrared techniques, are currently applied to detection systems used for food inspection, but physical contamination, with e.g. wood, plastic, metal and glass, is still present in food. In the last years, possibly due to the increasing automation of supply chains, the occurrence of metal incidents has risen and incidents with plastics and glass remain significant.

For this reason, there is the need to develop new technologies capable to address the still unmet needs of food industry.In the MIT-food project, we will investigate the use of the microwave imaging (MWI) technology for food contamination monitoring. MWI is able, through low-power electromagnetic (EM) waves at microwave frequencies, to non-invasively penetrate an object and provide a spatial map of its EM properties. Such a capability is herein relevant because of the intrinsic difference in such properties between food and contaminants.The main objective of the MIT-Food project is to realize a prototypal device able to identify foreign objects in food using microwave imaging. This technology will be non-destructive and contactless, safe for operators (thanks to the use of low-power, non-ionizing radiations), able to provide inline monitoring in food manufacturing (thanks to tailored processing algorithms and their hardware implementation), easy to use and cost-efficient (thanks to low-cost technologies).

Impact on society 

The main impact of the MIT-food project will be on the food industry allowing the detection of foreign body contamination in products, which is one of the major sources of complaints against food manufacturers. Food/beverage industries have a significant presence in Italy and in particular in Piedmont Region, where their turnover is around 11.6 billion (9.1% made in Italy food/beverage production), with an export of 4 billion. Finally, the topic of this research is part of one Societal Challenge in the H2020 program: “Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research, and the bio-economy”.

Research results

The main result of MIT-Food project was the realization of a prototype able to identify foreign objects in food using micriwave imaging. Two versions of the prototype were realized: a simple one with two antennas and a more sofisticated and precise with six antennas. In both cases it has been designed in order to perform a measurment along the food production line and it has been tested at Politecnico di Torino and in the industrial partner plant, verifying capacity to identify contamination and compare performance with the traditional X-ray scan.

Among the main scientific results we highligth:

  • 2 publications on specialized scientific magazines
  • Project presentation to 6 scientific conferences
  • Contacts with industries producing food monitoring industrial lines
  • New research project “Best-Food Broadband Electromagnetic sensing technologies for food quality and security assessment” supported by the Italian Research Ministry call PRIN 2017

Short CV of project coordinator 

Francesca Vipiana received the PhD degree in Electronic Engineering from the Politecnico di Torino in 2004. From 2009 to 2012, she was the Head of the “Antenna and EMC Lab” at the Istituto Superiore Mario Boella, Torino. Since 2012, she works at the Department of Electronics and Telecommunications (DET) of Politecnico di Torino, firstly as Assistant Professor and since 2014 as Associate Professor. Her current research interests include modelling and design of microwave imaging systems for medical applications, and numerical techniques based on the integral equation and method of moment approaches, with a focus on hierarchical schemes, domain decomposition, and fast solution methods.

Working group @Polito

Mario Casu, Associate Professor, Department of Electronics and Telecommunications (DET)

Marco Vacca, Researcher, DET

Gianluca Dassano, Technician, DET

Giovanna Turvani, Postdoc researcher, DET

Jorge Tobon, Postdoc researcher,  DET

Micaela Demichela, Researcher, Department of Applied Science and Technology (DISAT)

Francesco Geobaldo, Full Professor, DISAT

Francesco Savorani, Associate Professor, DISAT

Francesca Bosco, Researcher, DISAT

Chiara Mollea, Technician, DISAT


Academic partner: Institut Fresnel (Research Institute, France)

Non-academic partner: Nutkao srl (Company, Italy)

  • Budget: 149.854 euro
  • Start date: 15/09/2017
  • End date: 14/09/2019