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Ethylene powder ripening of fruit and vegetables


Key words Powder ethylene, ripening, fruit, vegetables
Latest version 2013/11/29
Completed by FRIP

How does it work?

Primary objective This technology improves the safety, efficiency and effort involved in controlled ripening of fruit by using the ethylene gas released from the powder
Working principle Compressed ethylene gas is used extensively to control ripening of fruit such as bananas, mangoes, avocadoes, citrus and tomatoes that are picked at “commercial maturity”, which is a hard green, but mature stage, before ripening has started. This gas is highly volatile and explosive accidents have occurred in the past. Compressed gas can be expensive, difficult to handle and unsafe.

Research identified a starch derivative biological material, which has cavities in its crystalline structure that can encapsulate the ethylene gas. The ethylene gas is released from the complex powder when the temperature and humidity is raised. This form of powder is environmentally friendly and can release the ethylene gas very quickly in humid and high temperature conditions [1].

During maturation several structural and biochemical changes occur in fruit which confer on them specific organoleptic qualities, such as modifications in the external aspect, texture and flavor of the fruit [2]. For example, the change in the color of tomato fruits results from transformation of chloroplasts into chromoplasts and from the degradation of chlorophyll, as well from the accumulation of pigments such as carotenes and lycopenes, which are responsible for the orange and red color of the fruit [3]. The tomato maturation process is also accompanied by alterations in the texture of the fruit, more specifically the loss of firmness, due to structural changes in the principal cell wall components (cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin). Finally, the accumulation of sugars such as glucose and fructose and organic acids in vacuoles and the production of complex volatile compounds is responsible for the aroma and flavor of the fruit [2].

This would make handling the ethylene much easier and safer and allow for very small amounts to be used to ripen small batches of fruit. It could also potentially be placed in trucks that transport the fruit from the farm so that the fruit arrives at the market perfectly ripe. Any other details were not published by authors- pending patent [1].

Additional effects
Important process parameters Temperature, humidity, concentration of released gas in air
Important product parameters Ripeness, type of fruit/vegetable

What can it be used for?

Products Fruit (e.g. bananas, mangoes, avocadoes, citrus) and vegetables (e.g. tomatoes)
Operations ripening
Solutions for short comings There is need for safe ripening of food without using ethylene in gaseous state.

What can it NOT be used for?

Other limitations
Risks or hazards


Maturity This is very new technology and it is not still spread in industry. It has been verified on labscale.
Modularity /Implementation This technology substitutes the old ethylene gas method
Consumer aspects No data
Legal aspects The same legal aspects are valid as for ethylene gas technology
Environmental aspects This technology is environmentally friendly

Further Information

Institutes The University of Queensland
References [1]

[2] Seymour GB, Taylor JE and Tucker G: A Biochemistry of fruit ripening. Chapman and Hall Publishers, London, 1993, 454 pp.

[3] Gray J, Picton S, Shabbeer J, Schuch W and Grierson D: Molecular biology of fruit ripening and its manipulation with antisense genes. Plant Mol Biol, 1992, 19:69-87.

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Created by LandfeldA on 16 December 2013, at 13:38