This cost-effective sensor will be particularly useful for exporting high-value fruits over long distances.
Jodhpur based Indian Institute of Technology’s researcher has successfully created and demonstrated a cost-effective and highly sensitive tactile pressure sensor for detecting fruit ripeness. The sensor utilizes nanoneedle textured PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane) as the dielectric layer and is lithography-free, allowing for flexible and large-scale fabrication. The team characterized the sensitivity and hysterics response of the capacitive tactile sensor and examined its transient response.
The developed sensor is capable of sorting fruits as per their ripeness and hence, by integrating the newly developed sensor with a robotic arm, it will be possible to create a high-throughput system that can effectively sort fruits based on their ripeness and quality during the plucking or transportation stages. This cost-effective system will be particularly useful for exporting high-value fruits over long distances.
By measuring the elastic modulus and capacitance, the researchers were able to demonstrate ripeness assessment for different types of tomatoes. In horticulture, monitoring fruit ripeness is essential to maintain their freshness and quality. Various microsensors have been developed for fruit sorting and ripeness detection. For instance, some devices rely on chemical analysis of sugar and starch content, while others use electrochemical sensing, image processing, electronics noise, and tactile sensing methods. However, chemical analysis is destructive and not applicable at all stages of ripeness, while electrochemical sensing requires expensive equipment. Image processing for ripeness detection is limited to specific fruit families, and changes in colour are not reliable indicators of ripeness for some fruits such as kiwis, mangoes, and blueberries.
On the other hand, measuring firmness has been a dependable and automated method for assessing ripeness. Therefore, there is a need for a sensitive tactile sensor integrated into a robotic system, capable of providing pressure, mechanical stiffness, and firmness information for a sufficiently large number of fruits during harvesting and transportation.
Talking about the significance of the research, Dr Ajay Agarwal, Professor & Head, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Jodhpur, said, “The development of the highly sensitive tactile pressure sensor and its integration with a robotic system has the potential to revolutionize the way in which high-value fruits are sorted today. This innovative technology offers a cost-effective solution for accurate and reliable fruit ripeness detection during harvesting and transportation, enabling high throughput sorting of fruits based on their quality and ripeness. The implementation of this system can have a significant impact on the fruit industry, improving efficiency, reducing waste, and increasing the shelf life and overall quality of exported fruits.”