THAILAND — Thailand-based researcher Warakorn Limbut and colleagues have developed a portable device that detects how much capsaicin a pepper contains with the help of a smartphone.

The device which provides a simple, accurate and cheap method to quantify the capsaicin content of chili peppers may help suppliers who use capsaicin as a food additive to more easily quantify the contents within food samples.

The chili-shaped device connects to a smartphone to display the results of the analysis and is a great improvement to existing methods which are rather complicated, time-consuming or require expensive, bulky instrumentation.

The new device has paper-based electrochemical sensor comprising of graphene nanoplatelets doped with nitrogen atoms to improve their electrical conductivity.

When a drop of diluted capsaicin is directed to the sensor, the compound undergoes oxidation and reduction reactions, producing an electrical current that is then picked up by the device.

After optimizing the sensor, the researchers used it to determine capsaicin concentrations in six dried chili samples.

They added the chilies to an ethanol-containing solution, shook it up and then introduced a drop of the sample.

The device accurately measured capsaicin concentrations from 7.5-90 μM in the six samples, and could detect down to 0.37 μM in the diluted samples.

Capsaicin is an important component in chilli as it is the active ingredient imparting a spicy flavour.

 The capsaicin in chili peppers also has a number of health benefits to consumers including anti-oxidative, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory activities.

The ingredient is therefore well-positioned in the food industry for its nutritional benefits.

Chili flavors have recently heated up the low and no alcohol trend.

The tingling sensation caused by the capsaicin provides a sensory experience to those drinking non-alcoholic beverages. 

In the better-for-you alcoholic beverages space, Gold Coast Ingredients recently highlighted chili flavors in hard seltzers.

Chili flavors have also held a top position in international flavors, such as in the snacking sector.

Savory snacking spiked this summer as consumers stayed more at home.

Global flavors, such as sweet and spicy notes, saw increased interest as consumers “traveled” through snacks.

And this summer, European Free Dry debuted gourmet ingredients including freeze-dried chili marinated shrimp, available as whole pieces or as a flavoring powder for snacks and ready meals. 

Being able to accurately measure the amount of capsaicin in chillis will thus help food manufacturers optimize their processing so that it aligns with consumer taste and preferences.

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