Non-invasive quality evaluation of fruits and vegetables using ultrasound

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Virginia Tech


Ultrasonic techniques were investigated for non-invasive quality evaluation of selected fruits and vegetables. An ultrasonic non-destructive evaluation system was developed and used to investigate physical and acoustical property changes for the selected fruits and vegetables non-invasively. The system included a high power burst pulser, a broadband receiver, a digital storage oscilloscope, two pairs of transducers of 250 kHz and 1 MHz, and a microcomputer system, which was interfaced with the ultrasonic equipment through a General Purpose Interface Board (GPIB), for data acquisition and analysis. Using potatoes and apples, several forms of the acoustic indices were investigated using the system.

Investigation of “Yukon-Gold’ potatoes concentrated on the physical and acoustical property changes during the storage period of approximately five months. The tests were conducted at regular intervals. Ultrasonic velocity, attenuation coefficient, modulus of elasticity, and tissue density were determined for each potato along two different orientations — longitudinal and transverse. Three varieties of apples, ‘Golden Delicious’, ‘Red Delicious’, and ‘Granny Smith’, were tested to detect their physiological changes with ripeness. The tests were conducted at two different stages of ripeness. In each test, ultrasonic velocity, attenuation coefficient, modulus of elasticity, and tissue density were determined along longitudinal and radial directions of the apples. Frequency analysis of the transmitted ultrasonic signals through potato and apple samples was also conducted using Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) techniques.

The experimental results for the potatoes and apples indicated the measured acoustical and physical properties differed along different orientations; i.e., potato and apple tissues are anisotropic materials. Apple tissues transmitted much lower frequency components than potato tissues and the transmitted frequency range was much narrower due to the much higher percentage of intercellular void space in apple tissues (24%) than in potato tissues (2%). The ultrasonic measurements were able to detect physiological changes and physical heterogeneities in fruit and vegetable tissues. Therefore, the ultrasonic technique can be a useful and quick method for evaluating firmness as well as textural and rheological property changes during storage of fruits and vegetables.

Hollow hearts in ‘Atlantic’ potatoes were successfully detected using the ultrasonic nondestructive evaluation system at 250 kHz. A objective this work was to develop a quantitative, non-invasive method for hollow heart detection in potatoes, and to provide information for designing evaluation equipment which could serve as an automatic quality control step in the production process. The analysis of the transmitted ultrasonic signals through the potatoes was carried out in both time and frequency domains. The results of the investigation of ‘Atlantic’ potatoes showed that the waveform of transmitted ultrasonic signals through a hollow heart potato differed significantly from that of a normal potato. Further, the defective potatoes could be separated on the basis of the amount of ultrasonic power transmitted through a potato. By means of digital Fourier analysis, the 0th spectral moment, M₀, was determined from the power spectral density curve of a transmitted ultrasonic signal. The spectral moment represents the amount of ultrasonic power transmitted through a tested potato, and was chosen as the basis for quantitative, non-invasive method for hollow heart detection, since power transmission of ultrasonic wave was affected by the presence of hollow heart in potatoes. Potatoes with hollow heart transmitted much less ultrasonic power than normal potatoes — approximately 89% less on average. There was a distinct separation between the normal potatoes and hollow heart potatoes. The reliability of this method was confirmed. Among 41 ‘Atlantic’ potatoes tested, all 26 hollow-heart potatoes were identified without exception. Therefore, the parameter M₀ could provide an effective method of analyzing the ultrasonic measurements for quantitative, non-invasive evaluation of hollow hearts in potatoes. This non-invasive method could be used to identify internal quality of potatoes that is difficult to evaluate from external appearance. Such a measurement offers promises for the development of equipment that would sort potatoes with hollow heart automatically.