The Scoville Units you see on the side of chili sauce bottles are measured subjectively by taste testers, who determine how hot a given hot sauce really is. But now a new nanotechnology will allow food scientists to quickly and cheaply measure the exact amount of capsaicinoids — the active component in chili peppers — in each spicy sample. Science gives us many wondrous things, but you probably never thought it would help prevent you from making bland chili.

The usual Scoville test involves diluting a sauce until taste testers can't detect heat anymore — the amount required to dilute it gives it a rating on the Scoville Scale. Chromatography can give you an accurate reading of capsaicinoids, but it's neither cheap nor easy. The new test uses carbon nanotube electrodes to draw in capsaicin molecules, which have a unique electrochemical response. When the capsaicinoids react, the device measures the current change and determines exactly how many were present. It can even translate this number into Scoville Units.

While the developers think this will be very useful in the food industry, where it can be deployed right on the production line, I've got a better idea. We can use it to develop a hot sauce so intense that we can cover our bodies with it to protect us from hungry robots. Image by: Viewoftheworld.

Chemists Measure Chilli Sauce Hotness With Nanotubes. [Science Daily]