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In the agro-food industry, there is an increasing demand for non-destructive, fast and cost-efficient methods for the objective determination of product quality. Several parameters influence the quality of a product, while the importance of each of these parameters may vary amongst people. Optical measurement techniques are often used because of their non-destructive nature. However, the robust determination of both chemical and physical quality attributes remains difficult. In this work, a non-destructive determination of quality was performed using laser scatter imaging. This technique allows to obtain more information on both the absorption and scattering of light, by retrieving spatial information. The bulk optical properties (bulk absorption coefficient, bulk scattering coefficient and scattering anisotropy factor) are used to characterize absorption and scattering properties. The absorption of light is related to the chemical composition of a product, like present pigments, water or sugars. Scattering of light is more related to the physical structure, possibly allowing to retrieve more information on physical quality attributes, like firmness, tenderness or porosity. Optical properties of light were derived from the obtained scatter images using a data-based modelling technique, possibly allowing a better prediction of product quality. This approach was tested in two case studies, apples and bovine meat, selected because of their economic importance for Belgium.


First, a hyperspectral laser scatter imaging (HLSI) system was developed. A combination of a supercontinuum laser with monochromator was used to illuminate samples with monochromatic light in the 550 nm to 1000 nm range, while a CCD camera was used to take images of the diffuse reflectance glow spots. From this glow spots, a diffuse reflectance profile with the light intensity relative to the distance from the point illumination was obtained. Models were constructed to optimize the detector size and the source-detector distance, estimating different quality parameters of Braeburn apples. A detector size of 0.82 mm was found to be adequate for the estimation of all parameters, including the starch value, firmness, SSC and Streif index. Different source-detector distances were found to be of importance for predicting different quality traits. Photons exiting the sample closer to the point illumination, which have interacted less with the sample, were more important for SSC prediction, while the prediction of physical parameters like firmness relied on photons which had more interaction with the sample. Moreover, using variable selection, the wavelength regions of pigment and water absorption were found to be most informative. A classification of apples into ripeness classes based on these models was possible, with a misclassification rate of 12.5%. Nevertheless, these models still used mixed information, including both the effects of absorption and scattering.

Using the double integrating spheres (DIS), the golden standard method for determining bulk optical properties (BOP), the interaction of light with both apple and bovine meat samples was studied. Both the apple skin and cortex were studied separately during maturation of bi-colored (Braeburn and Kanzi) and green cultivars (Greenstar). The bulk absorption coefficient µa of the skin showed features of anthocyanins at 550 nm, chlorophyll at 678 nm and water at 970 nm, 1200 nm and 1450 nm, while the µa of the cortex showed an overall lower absorption attributed to carotenoids, chlorophyll and water. During maturation of apples, an increase in the absorption by anthocyanins was observed in the red cultivar’s skin, while a decrease in absorption by chlorophyll was observed in the cortex. Both the bulk scattering coefficient µs and anisotropy factor g of the skin were significantly higher in comparison to the cortex. Both skin and cortex were found to be highly forward scattering with anisotropy factors above 0.9 in the entire wavelength range between 500 nm and 1850 nm. During maturation, no clear evolutions in the anisotropy factor were observed, while µs decreased in the fruit cortex. It was hypothesized that the shape and size of the scattering particles hardly changed during maturation.

The DIS analysis showed changes in the optical properties of apple during maturation. This indicates that the non-destructive estimation of BOP could be beneficial in determining apple quality. To go from scatter images towards an estimation of the optical properties, a data-based model was used. To train this model, a set of optical phantoms with known optical properties was measured using the HLSI system. These diffuse reflectance measurements, in combination with the BOP from the DIS, were used as an input for a metamodel, linking the BOP to diffuse reflectance profiles. The metamodel showed a good performance for a set of validation phantoms, with an R2V of 0.9977 and 0.957 in combination with an RMSEV of 0.20 cm-1 and 3.21 cm-1, for respectively µa and µs’. Nevertheless, at wavelengths with extreme BOP values, the predictions were less accurate. The prediction of apple BOP showed an expected course for the µa spectra, with absorption features of anthocyanin, chlorophyll and water. However, an incomplete separation between µa and µs’ was obtained, as µs’ still showed some distinct absorption features. Nevertheless, at wavelengths with low absorption, the estimation of µs’ was according to expectations. In addition, the same evolutions in BOP as found with the DIS setup were also found with the non-destructive HLSI technique. Though, no clear relation was obtained between apple quality and the estimated BOP. Possibly, the low variability of both SSC and firmness during maturation, together with a high variability amongst apples from the same harvest day, could have complicated the prediction models. Moreover, still mostly information on the changes of apple pigments was used in the models.


Next, two bovine muscles were measured using the DIS as well. Both the longissimus lumborum (LL) and the biceps femoris (BF) were considered, while the BF was further divided into an outer and inner part, due to two-toning. Clear absorption features of myoglobin, mainly oxymyoglobin at 544 nm and 582 nm, and water were found in the µa spectra. A higher absorption of myoglobin was found in the BF samples, while also a higher µs and a lower g was found in this muscle compared to the LL. The inner and outer BF showed significant scattering differences, possibly related to an increased degree of protein denaturation in the inner BF. During wet aging, when meat tenderness increases, a decrease in the measured g was noticed in both muscle samples.

When measuring muscle samples using spatially resolved spectroscopy, anisotropic light scattering by the present muscle fibers should be accounted for. By measuring muscle samples with different initial fiber orientations, it was shown that muscle fibers can change the shape of the diffuse reflectance glow spots from circular to a rhombus shape. This effect was mainly present in the samples with the muscle fibers running parallel to the measurement surface. Moreover, the rhombus’ major axis orientation was related to the distance from the point of illumination. Close to the point illumination the major axis orientation was found to be perpendicular to the muscle fibers, while at larger distance a 90° shift occurred, aligning the major axis with the muscle fibers. In these samples with muscle fibers parallel to the measurement surface, the fiber orientation could be predicted based on the fitted rhombuses, with an R2P of 0.993 and RMSEP of 3.95°. These results show the importance of the 3D fiber orientation when measuring diffuse reflectance signals. Moreover, this 3D fiber orientation could possibly be determined using the obtained diffuse reflectance signals.

The prediction of muscle BOP values using the metamodel also showed similarities with the DIS measurement. Clear absorption features of oxymyoglobin and water were present, while the absorption by metmyoglobin was observed as well, related to the ticker samples measured using HLSI. A thicker sample allows a gradient of myoglobin forms to exist, relative to different depths inside the sample. Again, larger µa and µs’ values were observed for the inner BF samples, while both the outer BF and LL samples showed lower values for µs’. During wet aging, a significant increase was obtained for the µs’ of the LL muscle. Moreover, due to the non-destructive nature of HLSI, measurements were possible through the plastic vacuum pack. Due to the lack of oxygen inside the vacuum pack, mainly deoxymyoglobin with an absorption peak around 557 nm was present. Measurements on the exact same sample during wet aging, through the vacuum pack, also showed an increase in µs’ of the LL muscle. As the changes in meat tenderness were most prominent in the LL muscle, it was suggested that the increase in meat tenderness could explain the observed increase in µs’ for this muscle.


Finally, a limited number of wavelengths were selected to design a multispectral hand-held measurement device. Four laser diode modules emitting at wavelengths of 533.3 nm, 674 nm, 800.7 nm and 981.1 nm, were selected and mounted around a CCD camera. Using shutters, the laser light of the different modules was guided onto the sample sequentially. Again, a metamodel was built by measuring a set of liquid optical phantoms with a wide range of both µa and µs’. In validation, the metamodel showed an R2V of 0.9724 and 0.9377 in combination with an RMSEV of 0.56 cm-1 and 5.13 cm-1 for µa and µs’ respectively. However, for the prediction of apple and pear samples, with and without the skin, an incomplete separation between absorption and scattering properties was obtained, mainly at wavelengths with high absorption values. Nevertheless, the estimation with the HLSI and multispectral device agreed for the apple samples. Moreover, fruit samples of different density showed different µs’ values. Like this, Golden Delicious apples had the lowest density, while the highest µs’ values were obtained.


Based on the obtained results, it was concluded that laser scatter imaging shows potential for the non-destructive monitoring of product quality. The technique can be of added value for applications in which both the evolution of chemical composition and microstructure are of importance. Moreover, the spatial measurements could be useful in characterizing the 3D structure of anisotropic products. Nevertheless, still improvements in the modelling and setup configuration could be introduced before evolving towards measurements in the field or on-site. A first step was made by the introduction of a multispectral, portable and low-cost measurement device. This type of optical measurements could be beneficial in the entire agro-food industry, as the estimation of BOP and the spatial nature of the measurements offers perspectives for monitoring product quality.

Date:1 Oct 2012  →  31 Dec 2017
Keywords:Apple, Beef, Food Quality, Hyperspectral, Optical properties, Absorption, Metamodel, Laser Scattering
Disciplines:Food sciences and (bio)technology, Agriculture, land and farm management, Biotechnology for agriculture, forestry, fisheries and allied sciences, Fisheries sciences, Analytical chemistry, Macromolecular and materials chemistry, Other chemical sciences, Nutrition and dietetics , Agricultural animal production
Project type:PhD project