A prototype of a nondestructive electronic sensory system (electronic sniffer) that responds to volatile gases emitted by fruit during ripening was developed. The electronic sniffer is based upon four semiconductor gas sensors designed to react with a range of reductive gases, including aromatic volatiles. In 1994, we examined the potential of using the electronic sniffer as a tool to nondestructively determine ripeness in `Golden Delicious' and `Goldrush' apples. Fruit were harvested weekly from 19 Sept. to 17 Oct. (`Golden Delicious') and 27 Sept. to 18 Nov. (`Goldrush'). Each week, apples of each cultivar were evaluated individually for skin color, weight size, and headspace volatiles. Each fruit was then evaluated by the electronic sniffer, and headspace ethylene was sampled from air within the testing box. Individual fruits were then evaluated for total soluble solids, firmness, pH, total acidity, and starch index value. The electronic sniffer was able to distinguish and accurately classify the apples into three ripeness stages (immature, ripe, and over-ripe). Improved results were obtained when multiple gas sensors were used rather than a single gas sensor.
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