Posted in | News | Biosensors | Chemical Sensor

New Single-Chip Electrochemical Sensor to Detect Ethylene

Imec and Holst Centre have demonstrated a single-chip electrochemical sensor for ethylene monitoring with a detection limit of 200-300ppb (parts per billion). Imec and Holst Centre’s solution enables small-size and low-cost ethylene detection systems applicable in the fruit distribution and retail sector.

Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone, produced by fruit, and responsible for the ripening of fruit. It is also sprayed in high concentrations (~1,000 ppm) in the warehouse, to force fruit to ripen, so it is ready to eat when it reaches consumers. Inexpensive and accurate ethylene sensors would enable better control of that process, and allow the distribution sector and retailers to avoid waste.

Today’s ethylene detection systems are lab-scale, expensive table-top devices, not suitable for the above mentioned applications. Imec and Holst Centre’s ethylene sensor is a low-cost electrochemical sensor based on a non-acidic electrolyte that does not evaporate. It can be fabricated on cheap substrates such as glass or foil. Recent improvements have shown that the ethylene sensor is able to detect 100ppb steps in concentrations below 1ppm, which makes it directly useful in warehouse applications. To our knowledge, it is the first time that a single-chip ethylene sensor has been demonstrated combining low, industrially relevant detection limits with low power consumption and low cost.

We are ready to work with component suppliers for industrialization of this new sensor and with system suppliers to integrate the sensor into ethylene measurement and control systems. We are further miniaturizing the sensor, and increasing the performance towards lower detection limits (~10-20 ppb) to enable other applications such as monitoring of plants, vegetables, flowers, ... in greenhouses.. Also, further decreasing its power consumption, a further improvement of dedicated read-out electronics to enable miniaturization of the system as a whole, and the development of the sensors onto flexible substrates is planned, paving the way for use in smart packaging.

About imec

Imec performs world-leading research in nanoelectronics. Imec leverages its scientific knowledge with the innovative power of its global partnerships in ICT, healthcare and energy. Imec delivers industry-relevant technology solutions. In a unique high-tech environment, its international top talent is committed to providing the building blocks for a better life in a sustainable society. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, Taiwan, US, China, India and Japan. Its staff of close to 2,000 people includes more than 600 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2011, imec's revenue (P&L) was about 300 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at

Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC International (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a "stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Flemish Government), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre which is supported by the Dutch Government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.) and imec China (IMEC Microelectronics (Shangai) Co. Ltd.) and imec India (Imec India Private Limited).

About Holst Centre

Holst Centre is an independent open-innovation R&D centre that develops generic technologies for Wireless Autonomous Transducer Solutions and for Systems-in-Foil. A key feature of Holst Centre is its partnership model with industry and academia around shared roadmaps and programs. It is this kind of cross-fertilization that enables Holst Centre to tune its scientific strategy to industrial needs.

Holst Centre was set up in 2005 by imec (Flanders, Belgium) and TNO (The Netherlands) with support from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Government of Flanders. It is named after Gilles Holst, a Dutch pioneer in Research and Development and first director of Philips Research.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type