[EAS] Fruit Ads, Fingernails Data

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Thu Jul 28 00:47:48 EDT 2005

Two fun things to do with lasers. Don't you just love the flow of
ideas in a society that, very much in contrast to others these days,
has amply taken care of all conceivable necessities and entered a
sort of permanent state of play and self-indulgence. Apples for the
teacher and exam crib sheets will never be the same again.  --PJK

(from INNOVATION, 27 July 2005)

       We've all struggled with those pesky stickers that sometimes refuse
to peel off produce, and now produce distributors are responding with a new
technology that uses lasers to tattoo fruits and vegetables with their
names, identifying numbers, countries of origin and other information that
helps speed distribution. In addition to making life easier for consumers,
the tattoo technology has another purpose -- it enables food suppliers to
identify and track, whether for profit or security, everything that
Americans eat. The process is being licensed by Georgia fruit distributor
Durand-Wayland, and Vidalia grower Bland Farms is already shipping
laser-coded onions to customers like Wal-Mart and Publix. In addition,
Sunkist has used it on oranges sold in California and is testing it on
lemons. Sunkist research director Henry Affeldt says the process is similar
to the way lasers work in surgery, cutting and cauterizing the skin almost
simultaneously. The resulting tattoo can contain an abundance of
information, says Durand-Wayland president Fred Durand III. "With the right
scanning technology the produce could even be bar-coded with lots of
information: where it comes from, who grew it, who picked it, even how many
calories it has per serving. You could have a green pepper that was
completely covered with coding. Or you could sell advertising space." What
will they think of next? (New York Times 19 Jul 2005)

       Researchers at the University of Tokushima in Japan have developed a
process that uses a laser to burn microscopic dots into a human fingernail,
which could one day carry as much as 800 kilobytes of data, says Tokushima
professor Yoshio Hayasaki. The laser delivers very short pulses of infrared
light onto a tightly focused spot, and researchers speculate that the
energy unravels keratin molecules in the nail, making them more
fluorescent. Shining a blue laser on the nail then illuminates the
fluorescence, making the dots appear brighter than the surrounding nail,
enabling the data to be read under a microscope. Because it is possible to
adjust the depth of the writing laser's beam inside the nail, it's possible
to superimpose several layers of data on one fingernail. Still to be
addressed are the issues of subjects' movement during the burning process,
and the fact that data would need to be reentered every six months or so as
the nail grows out. (Nature 18 Jul 2005)

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