How to peel 6000 Tomatoes using Zhongli Pan’s IR Radiation Method

“In a study published in 2014, the researchers showed that peel-related-loss — measured by comparing the tomato’s weight before and after peeling — was about 8 to 13 percent with the infrared heating and about 13 to 16 percent with sodium hydroxide-based peeling”

Excerpt from a Study in the January 2015 issue of Agricultural Research magazine describing the process of peeling Tomatoes using IR (InfraRed) Radiation

Howdy dear readers! If you though peeling Potatoes and Apple with Drills (Deer, 2014 December 14) was weird, wait till you read my latest reflection on peeling Tomatoes.

Supposed you, my fellow Miconian, were faced with the dilemma of peeling 6000 tomatoes?

Well, over a period of five (5) years a team led by Agricultural Research Service engineer Zhongli Pan and his team figured out how to peel tomatoes using IR (USDA, 2015). His team, who are seeking a patent for their invention, consists of the following people:

  • Tara McHugh, research leader and food technologist with ARS at Albany
  • Carlos Masareje with Precision Canning Equipment, Woodland, California
  • James Valenti-Jordan of Del Monte Foods, Walnut Creek

Engineer Zhongli Pan, faced with this dilemma, developed a non-aqueous method of peeling tomatoes (Franco, 2015).

During those five (5) years while based at the agency’s Western Regional Research Center in Albany, California, his research team experimented with and developed a method to peel Tomatoes using IR Radiation.

His work was published in the January issue of Agricultural Research magazine, paves the way for a tomato peeling machine in every home.

MICO Wars - How to peel 6000 Tomatoes using Zhongli Pan’s IR Radiation Method - 09-02-2015 LHDEER

It’ll also eliminate the need for steam heating the tomatoes or blasting them with jets of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide and then rinsing them off with water. Best of all, it avoids over-peeling the tomato, leaving much of the flesh on the tomato, making the final product aesthetically appealing.

This as over-peeling exposes the less attractive paler inner layers as well as the tomato’s yellowish, vein-like vascular bundles. By using this new IR Method, the Tomato remains pleasantly firm and hold together well when cut. The lack of water means that depending on their moisture content, the IR peeled tomatoes were a little more firm than those peeled with other methods.

So how does this IR method work?

Dr Zhongli Pan developes IR Radiation to peel Tomatoes – No Drill Required

The process involve the use of IR (Infrared Radiation), a spectrum of light just below Red light in the visible spectrum of light (Liew, 2015) that has a frequency of (frequency 430 THz) to 1 mm (300 GHz) and a wavelength of 700 nanometers.

IR is produced from the changes in the Vibration and Rotational State of molecules and is often radiation associated with the heating effect of molecules. Consequently, IR is used not only in Night Vision equiptment but also in Microwave Ovens to count Calories (Deer, 2014 July 11) and even portable IR Spectroscopy such as Consumer Physics’s (Deer, 2014 May 16) US$199 SCiO Portable IR Spectrometer.

MICO Wars - How to peel 6000 Tomatoes using Zhongli Pan’s IR Radiation Method - 09-02-2015 LHDEER

The tomatoes in question, which are of the Roma variety, are run along a conveyor belt. While rolling along on their merry way, the tomatoes are irradiated using IR Radiation emanating from a set of IR Tubes for sixty (60) seconds.

This creates a localized heating effect that cause the skin to crack and moisture within the Tomatoes to rise to the surface, lifting the tomato skin up slightly, separating it from the fleshy body of the Tomato.

In this state, the skin can be easily removed by passing though a vacuum chamber where Rollers configured in a V-shape that gently peel off the outer layers. The real takeaway here is the savings to the manufacture in terms of the usage of water and chemicals.

So the next time you want to peel a tomato, probably in the year 2016 and you use a device that uses IR Radiation, chances are it might be a device based on a patent that was issued by Agricultural Research Service Engineer Zhongli Pan and his team at the Western Regional Research Center in Albany, California.


  1. Deer, L. (2014, December 14). The Fastest Way to Peel Apples and Potatoes using a Power Drill. Retrieved from
  2. Deer, L. (2014, July 11). General Electric Research Team develops Portable Microwave Calorie Counter – Counting Calories one Water and Fat Molecule at a time. Retrieved from
  3. Deer, L. (2014, May 16). Consumer Physics US$199 SCiO Portable IR Spectrometer – Star Trek Tricorder that can scan the Molecular World. Retrieved from
  4. Franco, M. (2015, January 30). The juicy payoff of peeling tomatoes with infrared energy. Retrieved from
  5. Liew, S. C. (2015, February 9). Electromagnetic Waves. Retrieved from
  6. USDA. (2015, February 9). Peeling Roma-style Tomatoes the Eco-friendly Way. Retrieved from



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