Ethylene gas released during the fruit ripening process can be detected using new fluorescent probes. Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone that regulates a wide range of biological processes in plants. The methods that are currently used for measuring ethylene gas, which include gas chromatography and photoacoustic spectrometry, are time consuming and rely on sophisticated instrumental methods.
The new fluorescent probes were developed by researchers from the Food Science and Technology Programme at the Department of Chemistry, NUS. A class of transition metal carbene complexes known as Grubbs catalysts were used to develop the probes. It can detect ethylene up to a level of 0.9 ppm (parts per million) in air.
Even in the presence of other possible gaseous species that might be emitted by ripening fruits, researchers found the probe to be effective in detecting ethylene gas. Moreover, this probe could be used to determine ethylene formation during fruit ripening to determine the fruit maturity levels for harvesting and storage.