Artificial tongue to squash the counterfeit whisky market

Artificial whiskey tester
Copyright: iStock/igorr1

Researchers from the University of Glasgow have developed a method of testing the if a whiskey is counterfeit. Scientists have developed an artificial tongue that could be used to cut down on the global trade of counterfeit alcohol.

The University of Glasgow designed an artificial tongue which consists of submicroscopic slices of gold and aluminium arranged in a checker-board pattern which acts as the taste-buds in the artificial tongue. Said taste buds are 500 times smaller than the human equivalent.

By exploiting the optical properties of both gold and aluminium, researchers were able to create an efficient testing method.

Researchers submerged the artificial tongue into samples of the same whisky of different ages. By absorbing the light through the whisky, the submerged sensor can indicate that the difference between a 12, 15 and 18 year old whiskey with a 99% success rate.

The author of the research paper Alasdair Clark, the leader of the research, said: “We call this an artificial tongue because it acts similarly to a human tongue – like us, it can’t identify the individual chemicals which make coffee taste different to apple juice but it can easily tell the difference between these complex chemical mixtures. We’re not the first researchers to make an artificial tongue, but we’re the first to make a single artificial tongue that uses two different types of nanoscale metal ‘tastebuds’, which provides more information about the ‘taste’ of each sample and allows a faster and more accurate response. While we’ve focused on whisky in this experiment, the artificial tongue could easily be used to ‘taste’ virtually any liquid, which means it could be used for a wide variety of applications. In addition to its obvious potential for use in identifying counterfeit alcohols, it could be used in food safety testing, quality control, security – really any area where a portable, reusable method of tasting would be useful.”

 

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