Imec and Holst Centre report single-chip ethylene sensor to monitor fruit ripening

21 May 2012

Imec and Holst Centre have demonstrated a single-chip electrochemical sensor for ethylene monitoring with a detection limit of 200-300ppb (parts per billion). Imec and Holst Centre’s solution enables small-size and low-cost ethylene detection systems applicable in the fruit distribution and retail sector.
Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone, produced by fruit, and responsible for the ripening of fruit. It is also sprayed in high concentrations (~1,000 ppm) in the warehouse, to force fruit to ripen, so it is ready to eat when it reaches consumers. Inexpensive and accurate ethylene sensors would enable better control of that process, and allow the distribution sector and retailers to avoid waste.
Today’s ethylene detection systems are lab-scale, expensive table-top devices, not suitable for the above mentioned applications. Imec and Holst Centre’s ethylene sensor is a low-cost electrochemical sensor based on a non-acidic electrolyte that does not evaporate. It can be fabricated on cheap substrates such as glass or foil. Recent improvements have shown that the ethylene sensor is able to detect 100ppb steps in concentrations below 1ppm, which makes it directly useful in warehouse applications. To our knowledge, it is the first time that a single-chip ethylene sensor has been demonstrated combining low, industrially relevant detection limits with low power consumption and low cost (Press Release Imec, 15 May 2012).