Researchers have created a device that can tell when fruits and vegetables go bad.

By James Oliver Cury
Updated May 24, 2017
Credit: Photo © Clare Barboza

Scientists at National Research Tomsk State University in Russia smelled an opportunity recently and pounced on it. They realized that the agriculture industry still relies heavily on human eyes and noses to gauge when fruits and vegetables are under-ripe or over-ripe. Now they've created a prototype device that can detect the odors of ripeness.

The device, which the researchers are still testing, is made up of several semiconductor sensors that analyze gas mixtures in a controlled space. A probe registers changes in the asphere's concentration of gasses associated with spoilage, like hydrogen sulphide and ammonia. In one experiment, scientists tested two sets of apples—one refrigerated and one at room temperature. After 12 hours, the sensors could identify the unchilled fruit because they were emitting stronger gases.

We can imagine many ways to use this tech. Most obviously, workers at food warehouses could determine the shelf life of products, which would have an impact on which fruits and veggies make it to market. But if the gadget gets small and inexpensive enough, it could be stored in a fridge and set up to tell you when to toss those sketchy leftovers.