Fresh fruit is so delicious, especially when the piece is perfectly ripe! So how can you tell when something is ready to eat? Do you squish or sniff, searching for a subtle change in coloring? What if the fruit is trapped in a box, waiting to be put out onto grocery store shelves? An MIT professor and his students are developing inexpensive ethylene sensors to help monitor the freshness of produce!
Ethylene is a gas, naturally secreted by plants, that causes ripening. Fruit sellers need to carefully monitor and control ethylene levels in storage areas, or risk having entire warehouses full of mushy brown bananas! Currently, an estimated 10% of U.S. supermarket produce is lost to spoilage.
These new sensors use carbon nanotubes to detect the ethylene being given off by fruit. They're expected to be much cheaper than current methods of ethylene monitoring, making it easier for grocers to determine which boxes of fruit to put on shelves, or what needs to be put on sale before going bad! I like this – new technology that not only reduces waste, but helps us get better deals at the grocery store!
Image: adapted from Iconspedia user Dimpoart
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