Ethylene in bananas

The develompent of the refrigeration industry, particularly with the refrigerant fluids enabled the transport of food thousands kilometers away from their production places. The European Union is the second largest deep-frozen products market.

Use of ethylene as a refrigerant agent

The chemical properties of some gases, like the boiling temperature, offers numerous opportunities in the storage and the transport of food products for wider distances. Lots of refrigerant fluids used in the past have been abandoned because of their harmful effect on the global warming

The refrigeration industries are now turning towards natural gases that have a low or even zero effect on climate. The ethylene (C2H4) is part of these gases. Although thousands tons are anthropogenically produced each year, almost 74% of the emissions are from natural sources.

As the boiling temperature of ethylene is at -103 °C, this gas is considered as a very low temperature refrigerant. Its usage is thus limited to some food. Lots of companies use ethylene mixed with water in order to synthetize ethylene glycol. This cooling medium is mordapted to the conservation at low temprature.

Use of ethylene in the fruits maturation

Climacteric fruits, like kiwis or bananas, are producing ethylene to mature. In order to be edible in a distant country, refrigerant fluids are not sufficient.

In addition to refrigerants, a ventilation system is often installed in warehouses in order to avoid ethylene accumulation caused by the fruits’ maturation. This process is used to slow down fruits growth and maturation. Thus, food can be carried without the potential risk of large losses caused by excessive maturation.

Once food arrive in the consumer country, it is stored in warehouses that diffuse low ethylene concentrations. These concentrations are too low to be toxic and are calculated precisely to be equivalent to what the climacteric fruit would produce to mature.