Electronic tongue successfully tests cognac, whiskey

Thursday, 13 November, 2014

Researchers have developed a low-cost ‘e-tongue’, an electronic ‘tongue’ that could one day sample food and drinks to check for quality before they hit the shelves - or even monitor water for pollutants.

SV Litvinenko and colleagues have published a paper on the e-tongue in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. It is constructed of a silicon base and the researchers say it could easily be incorporated into existing electronic systems of the same material.

When tested with Armagnac, cognac, whiskey and water, the e-tongue was able to establish precise signatures for each.

It works by mimicking how humans and other animals distinguish tastes. Tiny sensors detect substances in a sample and send signals to a computer for processing, in the same way that taste buds sense and transmit flavour messages to the brain.

The food and beverage and other industries have already started using electronic tongues for a range of purposes, from authenticating Thai food to measuring beer quality. However, these existing devices are limited in terms of how they can be used.

Litvinenko’s team set out to make an improved instrument that could have applications in medical diagnostics, pharmaceutical testing and environmental monitoring, as well as food testing. The researchers say that their work serves as a first step towards a novel tasting instrument with potentially diverse applications.

ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is published by the American Chemical Society.

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