A nondestructive electronic sensory system (electronic sniffer) that responds to volatile gases emitted by fruit during ripening was developed. It is based upon a single semi-conductor gas sensor placed within a rigid plastic cup equipped with a gas inlet to flush the head between samples. This gas sensor reacts with the range of reductive gases such as the aromatic volatiles that are naturally emitted by the ripening melon fruit. The sensor cup is placed on the exterior of the fruit and the change in electrical conductivity is recorded. In 1994, we examined the electronic sniffer as a tool to nondestructively determine ripeness in `Superstar', `Mission', and `Makdimon' melons. Fruits were manually classified into five ripeness stages based on external appearance and slip stage. Melons were first sampled nondestructively for color, weight, size, and slip stage, and then subjected to the electronic sniffer. Then, fruit volatiles, flesh firmness, and total soluble solids were measured. The electronic sniffer was able to accurately classify melons into three ripeness classes: unripe, half-ripe, and ripe for `Superstar' and `Mission'. The sniffer was only able to separate ripe from over-ripe in `Makdimon', which is known to become over-ripe and deteriorate rapidly. Using the sniffer as a tool to nondestructively measure ripeness and its potential application in fruit quality will be discussed.
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