Feel the heat, with nanotubes

Ever wanted to know just how hot that spicy dish is going to be before sinking your teeth into it? Well, Richard Compton and his colleagues at Oxford University, England, have developed a novel technique to measure the concentration of the spicy hot compounds found in chili peppers, capsaicinoids, using carbon nanotubes. Writing in The Analyst, the team points out that their new chili sensor unambiguously determines the precise levels of capsaicinoids present, is quicker and cheaper than hired taste-testers and could be carried out inline during production. Capsaicinoids in a sample are adsorbed on to multi-walled carbon nanotube electrodes, with electrooxidation translating into the equivalent of the Scoville "heat" unit.