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UK scientists invent chilli heat sensor

28 October 2008 by

UK scientists have developed a new way of finding out how hot a chilli sauce is without tasting it.

Chemists from Oxford University have come up with a technique to measure the levels of capsaicinoids, the substances that make chillies spicy.

They're hoping that the technology could soon be made available as a cheap disposable sensor for use in the food industry.

The device is based on the Scoville rating, which measures the number of dilutions in a chilli sauce. The higher the number of dilutions, the spicier the sauce.

For instance the mild Jalapeno chilli ranges from 2,500 - 8,000, while the world's hottest chilli, the Naga Jolokia, has a rating of 1,000,000.

The new test uses carbon nanotubes and it gives a reading in less than a minute using a similar technology to that used by diabetics to test blood sugar levels.

"It is a simple little device based on nanotechnology," Professor Richard Compton, who is leading the research, told the BBC.

"We can simply dip it into the sauce and we get an electrical signal which gives us a number, which matches up with the subjective Scoville units really rather agreeably well."

  • Burger chain Burger Union has introduced the Fired Earth Burger, which is a 7oz beef patty spiced with hot chilli rub, peppered cheese, sliced jalapenos, beef tomato, fresh rocket and secret spicy sauce. The company claims it's the world's hottest burger out and are serving it with a medical disclaimer, which reads: "Customers eating the burger must be at least 18 or accompanied by their parent or guardian and without anxiety, asthma, heart or bowel problems."

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By Kerstin Kühn

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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