Sniffing out ripeness – who nose?

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Carl Collen

BY CARL COLLEN

Sniffing out ripeness – who nose?

University of Leicester claims its scientists have discovered a way to effectively 'smell' the ripeness of mangoes

Sniffing out ripeness – who nose?

Professor Paul Monks

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Scientists from the University of Leicester have suggested in a new study that they have identified a way to ‘sniff’ the ripeness of mangoes.

According to the university, the scientists have "identified the unique chemical signature of ripening for mangoes" and published their research in the academic journal Metabolomics.

“Mangoes are one of the most important and popular tropical fruits with India producing approximately 40 per cent of the world’s supply," explained lead researcher Professor Paul Monks, of the department of chemistry at the University of Leicester. "The UK imports in excess of 60,000 tonnes of mangoes and the market is worth more than £70m.

“It is really important for people to be able to tell how ripe fruit is without having to taste it," he continued. "This important for fruit producers and supermarkets. Our new published research, from the University of Leicester, has shown that is possible to ‘sniff’ the ripeness of mangoes."

According to Monks, the study team used a novel fast-sensitive 'electronic-nose' for sniffing volatiles compounds from the ripening fruit. Popular supermarket mango varieties were used. In particular, the work showed an increase in ester compounds -  the smell of pear drops -  was a particular marker of overripe fruit.

Monks said the work has, for the first time, followed in real-time and detail the chemical signatures of ripening for mangoes.

"There are some real potential applications of this research for making devices to be able assess ripeness non-destructively," he added. "The information gained from the work could be used to develop to small, hand-held electronic noses that could be deployed to assess fruit maturity prior to picking and thus determine the optimum point to harvest mature green mangoes.
 
“This work has great potential for small devices to detect fruit ripeness and could be expanded to a range of different fruits. In terms of where we go from here - well, we are looking for commercial partners who may be interested in taking these sort of ideas forward.”

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