Murdoch University - Australia

Scientists find a way to zap fruit & kill mould

Scientists at Murdoch University have developed a low-energy, chemical-free process that can zap fresh produce, stopping mould spores from germinating and extending its shelf life for weeks. This innovation is causing great excitement among growers in Western Australia and around the world.

The scientists are using cold plasma technology, which plant pathologist Dr Kirsty Bayliss described as "effectively lightning" that left the fruit unscathed but killed mould spores: "Basically it's just an ionised gas. You are applying an electrical current to a gas, and in our case we are just using the air and it creates this plasma.”

To help explain the process, Dr Bayliss regularly uses a toy plasma lamp with an electrode inside a glass globe that shoots out plasma filaments. The technology is like the lamp but without the glass. "It comes out as a flame like what you would see during lightning, and that actually zaps the fruit but it is only very low temperature," she said. "It's called cold plasma because it is room temperature. It's not heating the fruit, it's not going to affect the quality, which is a major advantage."

Dr Bayliss first came across the use of cold plasma in 2015 on a young researchers exchange trip and her interest was piqued. reports how for the past three-and-a-half years, they have been testing and refining the treatment technique on avocados, donated by growers who see huge benefits if the technology can be rolled out to pack houses.

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