Advertisement
The Scientist
The Scientist

Sensor Measures Produce Ripeness

The device could help grocers and food distributors better monitor fruits and vegetables.

By | April 30, 2012

image: Sensor Measures Produce Ripeness Flickr, Aaron Fulkerson

FLICKR, AARON FULKERSON

Not sure if that avocado needs one more day to ripen? A new device, developed by chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, can accurately measure the ripeness of several types of fruit by detecting the presence of ethylene, a gas that promotes ripening in plants. The sensor could help supermarkets avoid the roughly 10 percent of their fruits and vegetables they lose every year to spoilage, said MIT’s Timothy Swager.

The sensor, described April 19 in the journal Angewandte Chemie, is made of an array of tens of thousands of carbon nanotubes modified with copper atoms, which bind ethylene and allow scientists to measure the amount of gas present. The researchers successfully tested their sensors on bananas, avocados, apples, pears, and oranges, accurately determining their ripeness.

The inexpensive devices could someday be attached to cardboard boxes of produce and scanned with a handheld device to reveal the contents’ ripeness, said Swager. Then, grocers would know when to put items on sale before they get too ripe.

The sensors, which cost just 25 cents, could reduce fruit spoilage during the international shipping process. “At any given time, there are thousands of cargo containers on the seas, transporting fruit and hoping that they arrive at their destination with the correct degree of ripeness,” John Saffell, technical director of sensor-making company Alphasense, who was not involved in the research, said in a press release. “Expensive analytical systems can monitor ethylene generation, but in the cost-sensitive shipping business, they are not economically viable for most of shipped fruit.”

Swager’s team is also pursuing monitors that could detect when food becomes moldy or develops bacterial growth.

Advertisement

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement
NeuroScientistNews
NeuroScientistNews

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
Advertisement
NeuroScientistNews
NeuroScientistNews
Life Technologies