Lasers. They’re not just for TIE fighters anymore. A team of Korean scientists have discovered a way to use them to detect microorganisms, something that theoretically could be used to cut down on food poisoning.

Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institutes of Science and Technology contaminated several chicken breasts with Escherichia coli and Bacillus cereus, both of which have, um, unpleasant side effects when consumed. They scanned the chicken with a red laser. Normally, when the beam hits organic material, it scatters in a particular way, which the scientists call “laser speckle.”

Microorganisms like E. coli disrupt the laser speckle, because they are moving around with their flagella. The scientists were able to spot the pattern changes by looking at images from a camera that was trained on the contaminated chicken.

Why is this a big deal? Right now, detecting harmful bacteria involves “high-cost, complex equipment, invasive procedures, and skilled technicians,” the study said. That is something your local burger joint can’t afford.

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