Decagon Devices

Watch a Simplified Shelf Life Experiment from Beginning to End

Typical shelf life testing takes months to perform. Manufacturers must test for each mode of failure and then model product changes at different temperatures and water activities to predict optimal shelf life conditions. But what if you could test and model all modes of failure at the same time?

We designed a shelf life experiment to answer the following questions:

  1. Can you save time by testing for every mode of failure simultaneously?
  2. Will simultaneous testing allow you to model all changes that occur? Or just some changes?
  3. How effective are those models at making shelf life predictions?
  4. Can the mode of failure tests be simplified, and will they still work?

The Experiment

We chose potato chips as our target product because they are susceptible to oxidation, texture loss, vitamin degradation, and color change. Researchers will equilibrate samples of potato chips to three different water activities and three different temperatures and then let each sample degrade for 5, 10, and 25 days. Unlike a typical shelf life experiment, the research team will stagger start times, so that all the samples finish degrading and are ready to test at the same time. The sample sizes will be larger than usual so that all modes of failure can be tested from the same samples simultaneously. Once all the data are collected, we’ll be able to create predictive models related to each mode of failure. The team plans to further simplify mode of failure tests in the following ways:


The team will track oxygen content through an Oxisense detector that looks at concentration by interrogating a sensor inside the container. This eliminates the need to open the sample container. We want to see if this simple instrument will be as effective as other more complicated methods such as peroxide values or TBAR values.

Browning Reaction

A typical browning reaction test tracks the appearance of the product. Our researchers will track color changes, but we’ll simplify the process by focusing the camera through the top of the container and taking a picture without having to open it. The team will then use image analysis software to track the changes, correlating degradation times to maillard browning reactions or other types of color loss.

The team will also perform simplified tests for texture loss, vitamin loss, and sensory properties.

Watch this Experiment as it Happens

In March, Dr. Brady Carter will give a virtual seminar detailing the results of the experiment. He will also publish updates throughout the year to show how the experiment is unfolding. He’ll comment on what’s working, what problems we encounter, and how product developers might avoid them. Register for experiment updates and to watch the webinar in March.
15 MarchTitle:



Examining Simplified Shelf Life Testing Methods
Dr. Brady Carter, Director of Food Science
Mar. 15th, 9 AM PST

Register for “Examining Simplified Shelf Life Testing Methods”

Sample prep really does make a difference to the speed and accuracy of your water activity readings. Support expert Wendy Ortman has visited hundreds of customers to help them get the best possible speed and accuracy from their water activity measurements. In this webinar, she will share what she’s learned about sample prep, including:

  • Why temperature differences matter, and what you can do to minimize them
  • How to handle products that absorb/desorb moisture slowly
  • Product properties that require special techniques
  • Best sampling practices
  • How to troubleshoot your standard sample prep procedures

7 DecTitle:



Insider Sample Prep Strategies for Faster, More Accurate Readings
Wendy Ortman, Customer Support Expert
Dec. 7th, 9 AM PDT

Register for Insider Strategies for Faster, Accurate Readings

How do you verify or check the calibration of an instrument? Customer support expert Wendy Ortman continues her clarification of the terms “verification” and “calibration” from last month’s newsletter.

Values out of spec?

Adjusting the calibration (or user offset) should not be done unless absolutely needed. Follow the instructions in the user manual to ensure an offset is required. To perform an offset, access the Configuration menu, select Calibration, and follow the prompts. This performs a linear offset to the calibration curve but is not a full calibration and does not account for change in slope of the calibration curve.

The difference between calibration and verification is important.

When using the dewpoint sensor, the verification process ensures that the chamber and sensors are clean and the instrument is reading correctly. The dewpoint method is a primary measurement method, so continual offsets are not needed and should be infrequent.

The capacitance (volatiles) sensor is a secondary method and therefore adjustments to the calibration using the offsets are more frequent and necessary to ensure accurate readings.

Verification frequency is dictated by usage. It should typically be done at least daily to ensure your instrument is clean and reading correctly.

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