The University of North Florida sensor technology can significantly benefit the Agriculture Industry through the use of advanced devices to aid in measuring food safety, to monitor the effects of over and under-fertilization, and to determine food and product freshness.

These issues are significant. It is estimated over 76 million Americans (one in four) are sickened each year by food-borne illnesses. Of these, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die and the issue has a large economic impact on farmers, costing billions of dollars per year in lost revenue. Fertilization has degraded water quality from the widespread use of manufactured (nitrogen-based) fertilizers, with over-fertilization and run-off affecting the nation's water systems, eco-life, and the environment and there is no current easy and accurate way to determine the "freshness" of food products. UNF sensors represent a breakthrough technology for these efforts.

Sensor Applications

UNF sensors can be used in many innovative and creative ways. In addition to the potential uses listed below, contact us to learn how UNF sensor technology can be tailored to meet your particular needs.

Food Quality

  • Real-time detection of contamination of microbes such as E. coli, salmonella, and potentially Shiga toxins in products processed at plants and farms.  
  • USDA, FDA, and private sector monitoring of "freshness" of agricultural and food products, including product grading, product adulterations, and freshness standards as well as monitoring for consistency and quality.  
  • Detection of gases such as ethylene to help minimize spoilage and other problems.  
  • Testing of imported produce and the immediate identification of diseases.  


  • Detection and minimization of over and under-fertilization of crops.   


  • Real-time monitoring and identification of the problems posed with chemicals in drinking water and the hazards to the ecology of U.S. water systems.  

Sensor Technology Overview

University of North Florida researchers have developed four types of advanced sensor technologies: two of which employ the use of next-generation nanocrystalline thin-film layers (oxide semi-conductive gas and enhanced quartz crystal microbalance sensors); one that is the first in its field (photoelectric chemical sensors); and one that has highly developed microbial sensing capabilities (photoelectric microbe sensors). All are patented or patent-pending and all are component-based, multi-functional platform technologies.

Nanocrystalline Oxide Semi-Conductive Gas Sensors (NOS)

UNF Nanocrystalline Oxide Semi-Conductive Gas Sensors have been configured to detect numerous mixtures, including industrial toxic chemicals, chemical warfare agents, explosive materials, gases/vapors, and volatile organic compounds (VOC). See the a detailed list of detected analytes. These sensors have increased sensitivity and can detect chemicals in the parts per million ranges, with some chemicals in the parts per billion ranges. UNF gas sensors can continuously operate on battery power due to their low power requirements, and under many conditions, they do not require a heater to operate.

Nanocrystalline Enhanced Quartz Crystal Microbalance Sensors (NCQCM)

UNF NCQCM sensors are electronic "e-noses," or devices that can learn to recognize many mixtures or combination of mixtures and are capable of mimicking the human senses of smell and taste. This innovative technology can categorize and identify mixtures, and then determine the brand and if the brand fits within the standards of quality. UNF NCQCM sensors are patent-pending and, when used orthogonally with the UNF oxide semi-conductive gas sensors, provide an even higher level of superior selectivity and sensitivity. UNF NCQCM sensors are customizable and can be configured to detect a wide range of analytes and have been tested with over 160 mixtures including alcohol beverages (individual types and brands), teas (brands), marker pens (brands), vapors, food and fruit products, explosive materials, petroleum fuels, adulterated fuels, alkenes, volatile organic compounds, aldehydes, ketones, and esters. See the detailed list of detected analytes. The sensors work at room temperature; the response time of the sensors is in near real-time.

Photoelectric Chemical Sensors (PECS)

UNF Photoelectric Chemical Sensors can be "taught" to identify many chemicals. To date, PECS have been configured to identify over 90 chemicals. See the detailed list of detected analytes. This technology is an updated and enhanced version of colorimetric sensors. PECS have multiple independent channels each capable of detecting different chemicals in near real-time using microprocessor-based embedded systems, outputting the sensed data in multiple digital formats. In addition, this technology's small size makes it very convenient and highly portable. 

Photoelectric Microbe Sensors (PEMS)

UNF Photoelectric Microbe Sensors are a multi-functional sensor recognition platform that detects a very wide range of microbes (both viruses and bacteria) with a single device. PEMS have multiple independent channels each capable of detecting different microbes in near-real time using microprocessor-based embedded systems. UNF PEMS result in a dramatic reduction of time, labor, and cost needed to detect and identify microbes. In addition, PEMS sensors can be combined with PECS to sense both chemicals and microbes simultaneously.  

Contact Information

Interested? Find out more by contacting Rosalyn Gilbert at the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, e-mail or call (904) 620-2352.



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