Puura - Food adulterant detector

Design concept

Using thin layer chromatography, PURAA detects the presence of harmful chemicals in fresh food. It helps to verify the quality of food from market vendors that families in Vietnam frequently purchase from. PURAA replaces the complicated lab set up with a simplified home-based system that users can easily follow and understand.


A mobile app allows users to learn more about the chemicals and offers a feedback system where they can alert authorities about instances of adulterated food. In this way, marketgoers collaborate with authorities to crack down adulteration and doing so anonymously.


This project was selected for exhibition at "Best of FYP" (2017) Exhibition, National Design Center, Singapore

Timeline: 7 months ( 2 semesters)



Research methods

Several research methods were employed to study the issue and the user's needs. A PhD student from chemistry and pharmaceutical field was also invited to give scientific advise on the solution. A survey with 120 participants were also conducted to gauge their attitudes towards food adulteration.


Summary and snapshots of research activities


Insights & design brief

The research exercises gave the following key insights that helped the shape the final outcome:

  • User profile would be females aged 25 - 55 who do shopping for their families.

  • Most respondents were aware and concerned about adulteration, but the key challenge for them is that they are not able to detect adulteration.

  • There is a lack of trust in the supply chain to detect and regulate this issue (Vietnam context).

  • Due to cultural and social norms, market goers usually have a certain trust-based relationship with vendors they are buying from and they are not willing to confront the vendors, but rather simply stop buying from them.

  • Shoppers do shopping daily or multiple times weekly and they want their trips to be as fast as possible (both market and super markets)

With this, the project aims to create a home-based adulterant detector that helps shoppers to periodically test produce from their vendors and filter out bad suppliers. They can also notify authorities of such detection.
This allows detection to be anonymous, non-confrontational and do not interfere with their current fast paced shopping routine

A sample of survey question and result (what are most 3 challenging issue about food adulteration?)

Area of intervention (from research result)


Ideation phase

Sketches and prototypes were made to test several ideas, each of them was evaluated both from the design POV and the scientic POV with the advisor.


Idea 1 : Integrating with food prep appliance


Idea 2 : Sensor installed at sink drainer to test liquid passing through


Idea 3 : Hand held sensor detecting through contact


Idea 4 : Test device with chromatography technique

At the end of this phase, idea 4 (chromatography-based method) was selected to go forward. Development of testing system is shown below.
The approach is to leverage the functionality of a lab-based testing system to a home-based one with consideration for usability and user

Thin Layver Chromatography Approach


Schematic representation of system setup


Development process

A. Form & Functionality development

The final form is a result of the following consideration

  • The previous top compartment to hold food sample is removed as sample collecting can simply be done with pipette instead.

  • Top-tapering form and bottom chamfer creating visual lightness.

  • Cartride insertion has a triangular shape --> useful for the cartridge (next part)

  • Parting lines for electronics are done in curves --> further enhance the feminity of form ( target user is mostly female)

  • Final colour palette: white / light gray --> hygienic, reliable and familiar (similar to other kitchen appliances)


B. Design of test cartridge



The final cartridge design is a result of the following consideration

  • Liquid compartment can hold 3-5ml of liquid

  • Separate compartment holding the silica-coated film (to be replace for each use)

  • Both compartments to be liquid tight and liquid travels from one to the other upon testing

  • Easily washable

  • The rail on the side guides the insertion and help to keep the tube in place.



C. Interaction & Communication

Appliance UI variations

Response map


The final interface of the product is simplified:

  • No action required from the user accept turning device on and insert cartridge

  • Appliance UI design to be instructive rather than informative

  • More information can be accessed via the app (optional)


Prototyping









Exhibition design


I'd like to express my sincere appreciation to the following people, without whom the project would not be possible:

  • Prof. Peer Sathik - Project supervisor, Chair of ADM - for his overall guidance.

  • David Quach - scientific advisor for his valuable advise.

  • Law Wei Kiat - product design senior & colleague who taught me so much about prototyping.

  • William Tran - for continual support and teaching me the electronics part.

  • Minh Nguyen - visual comm junior who helped with animating the video.

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