Ultra-High Efficiency Ethylene Scrubber to Reduce Cold Storage Costs of Produce

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2018-33610-28231
Agency Tracking Number: 2018-00252
Amount: $99,804.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 8.13
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2018
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2018-07-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2019-08-31
Small Business Information
25 FRANCIS J CLARKE CIR STE 1, Bethel, CT, 06801-2873
DUNS: 005379475
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Melissa Petruska
 (203) 947-4500
Business Contact
 Peter Van Buskirk
Title: General Manager
Phone: (203) 448-6767
Email: pvb@sonatamaterials.com
Research Institution
The importance of improving postharvest handling can be understood in terms of the primary impact of poor postharvest care--food loss. Technologies for improving postharvest handling focus on extending the shelf life of the fruit or vegetable while maintaining or improving upon the quality of the produce. A major achievement in prolonging produce storage life has been the implementation of cold storage solutions, which reduce respiration and slow down metabolic processes. However, refrigeration is not readily available in all areas, and even when its use is routine, lower cost, energy-efficient approaches to improving produce quality and extending shelf life are desired. Ethylene is a plant hormone that promotes ripening, but in large quantities (>100 ppb), it can cause over-ripening and increased susceptibility to pathogens and senescence. Reduction of ethylene levels down to 5 ppb can dramatically extend produce storage times, suggesting precise ethylene control as a major opportunity to reduce produce refrigeration and spoilage costs. Whereas several ethylene mitigation schemes are known, they can be hazardous, compatible only with select produce, inefficient, and costly, effectively inhibiting widespread adoption.Sonata Scientific will use catalysts activated with energy-efficient light-emitting diodes to oxidize ethylene in transportation and storage containers to nonhazardous products already present in the produce environment, e.g., water and CO2. The technology will also be used to destroy fungal spores and other airborne pathogens that adversely affect produce quality and lifetime. These catalysts will be optimized to effectively couple with visible light to enhance ethylene oxidation efficiencies in typical storage environments with high humidity. The catalysts will be prepared under conditions that allow for the critical properties for efficient ethylene mitigation to be determined and manipulated in forms that are best suited for typical system designs. The proposed system will address shortcomings in currently available technology by exploiting a nontoxic approach that can be used across a wide variety of produce and floral products. Catalysts will be designed specifically for ethylene oxidation, thereby improving efficiency, and will be paired with energy-efficient light sources to significantly reduce cost. This technology platform will enable a range of efficient and effective ethylene removal products for produce cold storage areas, transportation containers, and distribution centers. Extending the postharvest lifetime of produce translates to less food loss and greater food availability. Reducing costs and waste throughout the postharvest cycle will allow produce prices to be dropped, particularly in those areas where high prices cannot be sustained. Cost-effective, general ethylene control measures should encourage changes in the handling of produce throughout the postharvest cycle, including the generalized strategy of applying cold storage to all produce.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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