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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Food Quality Laboratory » Research » Research Project #436705

Research Project: Improving Food Quality via Nano Technologies

Location: Food Quality Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-43440-006-04-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2019
End Date: Jun 30, 2024

1. To develop novel paper sensors to detect and monitor ripening and quality of fresh produce. 2. To develop nano technologies to improve the quality and shelf life of fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.

1. A novel approach for detecting fruit ripening will be developed based on photometric gas sensors. An array of chemical indicators will be immobilized on proper matrices (such as filter paper, hydrogel beads, zeolite, or carbon nanotubes) to capture the qualitative and quantitative change in gas composition in the fruit package during storage. The ripeness of fruits will be determined by texture analysis and chemical composition analyzed by HPLC. Indicators with selective response to certain compounds (such as alcohols, esters, and aldehydes/ketones) will be tested for their color change as a function of the abovementioned parameters for ripeness. The color change of the indicator array will be quantified by machine vision and artificial intelligence to establish its relationship to ripeness parameters. Since the aroma composition is affected not only by ripeness but also by disease and deterioration, the developed sensors will also be useful for monitoring food quality attributes. 2. Innovative approaches leveraging biodegradable polymers and nanotechnology will be adopted to improve food quality. Specifically, nanoencapsulating systems (e.g., nanoemulsions and nanoparticles) will be developed to stabilize and deliver functional ingredients, such as antimicrobial agents and browning inhibitors. Novel delivery systems will be explored for their capacity of transporting desired compounds across barriers such as wax. Polymers will be characterized by techniques such as Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and spectrophotometry. Particle and droplet size as well as stability of the delivery system will be measured by dynamic laser scattering and scanning or transmission electron microscope. Interaction between the delivery system and surface of interest will be determined by contact angle measurement and quartz crystal microbalance. Transport of biofunctional molecules will be tracked by using fluorescently labelled model compounds.