The estimation of a concentration-dependent diffusion coefficient in a drying process is known as an inverse coefficient problem. The solution is sought wherein the space-average concentration is known as function of time (mass loss monitoring). The problem is stated as the minimization of a functional and gradient-based algorithms are used to solve it. Many numerical and experimental examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach are presented. Thin slab drying was carried out in an isothermal drying chamber built in our laboratory. The diffusion coefficients of fructose obtained with the present method are compared with existing literature results. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.