The QCAP partners successfully cooperated in the completion of three sensor prototypes for monitoring fruit and potatoes in storage areas. The monitoring systems have been tested in both laboratory and industrial environments in Jork, Cranfield, and Leuven; demonstrating the high potential of QCAP in monitoring fruit emitted volatile species.
QCAP started in 2017 to build a low-cost, portable, and fully integrated gas sensor that can detect eight chemical volatiles simultaneously. These compounds are related to fermentation, ripening, damage and spoilage during storage. An essential requisite for the project was effective teamwork and cooperation among the partners.
The sensor consisted of many individual components, gas treatment system, electronics, and the software. Therefore, the development of the complete system was expected to be challenging from the beginning. For the simultaneous detection of multiple gas species, a new laser with broad-spectrum and high intensity was required. The fast detection of multiple gas species at the sub-ppmv level was another challenge. Thus, a new, fast, and low-cost spectrometer capable of measuring gas absorption over a broad spectral range had to be developed. Furthermore, user-friendly integrated software for controlling the system and on-line analysing the data was needed. But perhaps, the most challenging aspect was the constraint time-frame and budget.
Due to the complexity of the system, the development of the sensors initially took more time than anticipated. The first sensor prototype was shipped to Leuven in January 2019. Afterwards, prototypes were fabricated and shipped to Jork and Cranfield. So far, the gases released from stored potatoes, apples, pears and blueberries have been measured. The field tests allowed to improve the system hardware and software iteratively.
Effectively achieving the project goals, QCAP is currently at its final stage. At the moment, one sensor system is performing measurements on blueberries stored in Jork, while the other will finish studying emitted gases from potatoes in Cranfield. After preparing the final reports and remarks, the project will be followed up by a next project called Max-Fresh to mature the QCAP sensor into a commercial product.