Oxford Professor Uses Carbon Nanotubes to Measure Red Hot Chillies

Illustration for article titled Oxford Professor Uses Carbon Nanotubes to Measure Red Hot Chillies

A Don at Oxford University has come up with a novel way to measure the hotness of chilli peppers objectively. Using carbon nanotubes and adsortive stripping voltammetry, Professor Richard Compton's idea could end up replacing the Scoville test, a subjective taste test created almost a century ago, that uses volunteers, and works on a "which is hotter than which" basis.

Professor Compton's method is, although the Guardian doesn't make this clear at all, I think, a way of simplifying the test. Giz's resident boffin, Kit Eaton, explained it to me thus:

The stripping voltammetry bit is a way of quantifying specific "ionic species" i.e. amounts of a substance, so bascially they break down the raw chilli stuff into a bunch of recognizable chemicals, and then measure how much of the particular "hotness-causing" ones there are.


The Prof's discovery did not come about through a love for chillis, but because he saw a diagram of capsaicin, the thing that makes chillis hot to trot, and thought that its flat molecule could help test . "We weren't finding a method for detecting chilli," he says. "Rather, chilli happened to help our fundamental science."

The method works by printing out a bunch of nanotubes that have been joined up into a strip. Once connected into a circuit, the strip becomes an electrode. The molecules then stick to the nano-electrodes and can be measured or tested. A patent has been applied for, and once Professor Compton's idea is fully developed, it will be used for other, more interesting things than chillis, such as drug detection. Oh. Now I wish I'd never written about it. [Guardian Unlimited]

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Shamoononon drives like a farmer

You know, I was at a coffee shop once (as much as i hate the coffee shop crowd) a few days before Christmas and a bunch of drunk hairy men decided to adorn themselves with only socks (much like the picture above) and scream the Jingle Bells songs while shaking their junk. Thanks for the horrendous flash back Giz.