‘Artificial nose’ sensors can sniff gases to identify ripe foods before they go bad

C2Sense tiny artificial nose sensor
Jan Schnorr/C2Sense
Are you kind of person who ends up with overripe fruit in your grocery store basket, but don’t realize it until you get your haul back to the kitchen? Well not to worry — there’s an “artificial nose” technology in the works that would allow users to detect the effects of ripening produce, and change the way we shop for food forever. This newly-developed sensor would sniff out food ripeness, empower sellers to move products at peak deliciousness, and put an end to overripe avocados once and for all.

Developed by C2Sense, the technology behind the “artificial nose” allows sensors to detect ethylene, an odorous gas that is released naturally as produce ripens. The more ethylene a fruit gives off, the more quickly it ripens, which means that the process from ripe to spoiled is expedited exponentially. Etheylene sensors aren’t new in and of themselves, and until now they have worked in largely the same way a home carbon monoxide detector or smoke alarm does. C2Sense’s ethylene detector technology is the first that is inexpensive enough to see a future in the mass market.

A chemical reaction takes place within an electric circuit in C2Sense’s affordable sensor, so that as ethylene molecules increase in number throughout the ripening process, the electrical current in the sensor is interrupted and the change in conductivity can be measured. Once the sensors are ready for mass production, they will become a part of the overall food process that the western world so often takes for granted. Wholesalers will be able to stock produce packaged with C2Sense chip labels, and will be able to manage the sale of fruits and vegetables at peak ripeness. Customers will be able to scan produce labels for ripeness from a simple smart phone app. Even restaurant owners and chefs will be able to manage food storage to make the most of their kitchen resources before food goes bad.

C2Sense is the startup behind the artificial nose, but the science originally came out of MIT and research conducted by chemistry PhD candidate Jan Schnorr. In October, C2Sense was granted $350,000 in research funds from Breakout Labs, a philanthropic organization that aims to support scientists in transitioning from lab research to commercial endeavors. Ultimately, Schnorr and C2Sense hope to use the artificial nose technology to create sensor chips so small and affordable that they could be embedded in food packaging or built into grocery store produce bags.

Further applications of the C2Sense technology are already in development to detect gases other than ethylene, including ammonia and the amines released by meat products. C2Sense estimates that global food waste has a direct economic cost of $750 billion per year. The ethylene sensing system they have developed into their artificial nose technology could seriously curtail the social, political, and economic problems that threaten the world’s population thanks to wasted food around the globe.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Health & Fitness

In search of the fountain of youth, beauty companies turn to tech

Beauty tech is a fairly new concept, but at CES 2019, companies such as Olay, L’Oreal, and Neutrogena were fully embracing it with all kinds of gadgets that promise to give you glowing skin.

Some of Volkswagen’s electric models will wear a ‘Made in the USA’ label

Confirming earlier rumors, Volkswagen has announced it will build electric cars in its Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory. The facility currently produces the Passat and the Atlas. Production will start in 2023, Digital Trends can reveal.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny animals discovered in Antarctic lake deep beneath the ice

Scientists have made a surprising discovery in Antarctica: the carcasses of tiny animals including crustaceans and a tardigrade were found in a lake that sits deep beneath over half a mile of Antarctic ice.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.