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Checking freshness of a fruit made easy with a new sensor

Researchers have invented a new sensor which is fruit-shaped. This sensor could help cargo companies to keep fruit fresher in transit, as per the researchers.

This sensor mimics the size, shape and composition of real fruit – is packed in with produce in transit and closely monitors its temperature.

This sensor is available in orange, apple, banana and mango varieties, and alerts firms to problems with their cooling processes, allowing them to take action.

The sensor project, is still at the trial stage and being conducted by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa).

Cornelia Zogg, communications spokeswoman narrated, “Mangos, bananas and oranges have usually travelled long distances by the time they reach our shops. However, not all the cargo makes it safely to its destination. Although fruit is inspected regularly, some of it is damaged or may even perish during the journey. This is because monitoring still has significant scope for improvement.”

As per the researchers this creates risks for both suppliers and consumers. State food agencies can order container loads of fruit to be destroyed if it hasn’t been stored at the right temperatures.

And fruit which is overripe or not fresh can end up being sold to consumers. Project leader Thijs Defraeye stated,“Cargo could be left outside during a layover, or you could have a power outage during transit, all of which affects quality.”

“Exporters do have ways to measure freshness, but our sensor is more accurate because it simulates the characteristics of individual types of fruit,” he added.

To achieve this, the team X-rayed real fruits and modelled their shape and texture, he explained. After that they determined the exact composition of each fruit’s flesh and simulated it in a laboratory, using a mixture of water, carbohydrates and polystyrene. This mixture was poured into a fruit-shaped sensor mould, created on a 3D printer.

Mr Defraeye explained, “If something goes wrong, suppliers will be able to access the temperature data from the whole journey and work out what happened. We hope this will help them control their sanitary protocols, and cut the cost and time of logistics.”

Field tests for the sensors are under research and the researchers are looking for potential commercial partners.