Our Research In-situ particle characterization in emulsions for field-scale quality assurance in the dairy industry

Principal Investigator

Sanjay Sarma

  • Vice President for Open Learning
  • Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab Director
  • Fred Fort Flowers (1941) and Daniel Fort Flowers (1941) Professor of Mechanical Engineering
  • Office of the Provost
  • Department of Mechanical Engineering

Sanjay Sarma is vice president for open learning, Fred Fort Flowers (1941) and Daniel Fort Flowers (1941) Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab at MIT. Professor Sarma's research interests include RFID, sensors, automotive design and design for the developing world, pedagogy and learning. Professor Sarma is the recipient of a 2017 J-WAFS Solutions grant for his project, “In-situ Particle Characterization in Emulsions for Field-scale Quality Assurance in the Dairy Industry.”


How can nutritional quality and consistency of dairy products across the supply chain in India be ensured?

Research Strategy

  • Develop and test image processing system as basis for sensor to measure milk protein and fat content
  • Engineer an inexpensive handheld device 
  • Assess dairy industry supply chain in India to align sensor commercialization strategy with need

Project description

J-WAFS Solutions Program

The dairy industry in India is dotted with millions of small-holding farmers spread across the country. The supply chain is complicated and opaque, leading to severe quality and safety concerns among consumers. Developing methods for in-situ characterization of particles in dense emulsions such as milk will allow users at village-level milk collection centers to test their supplies to ensure quality and nutritional consistency. In this project, the research team aimed to ensure real-time control across the dairy industry supply chain – from farmers, to collection centers, to processing plants. They created an optical method to rapidly measure milkfat and protein and envision using this to build portable low-cost instruments to indicate primary milk quality and in turn improve traceability and enable real-time control. Their target end-users were an estimated 300,000 village-level milk collection centers across India. During the grant period, they reduced the technology to practice, objectively evaluated its capabilities, and accurately analyzed its value proposition and market potential.


  • Developed a new non-contact structured light imaging system that was tested and proved successful in the laboratory and in the field
  • Built and validated a detailed market analysis through multiple field visits and interviews with key stakeholders in India’s dairy industry and entrepreneurship ecosystem


Additional Details

Impact Areas

  • Food

Research Themes

  • Sensors & Monitoring
  • Technology & Commercialization
  • Transforming Food Systems
  • Equity & Access

Year Funded

  • 2017

Grant Type

  • Solutions Grant


  • Completed