Artificial tongue may help identify fake alcohols

Researchers in Scotland have developed an “artificial tongue” which can tell the difference between different types of alcohols and, in the process, potentially aid the fight against counterfeit alcohol.

Artificial tongue may help identify fake alcoholsResearchers built a tiny taster that can tell the subtle differences by harnessing the optical properties of gold and aluminium , which could potentially be used in areas such as identifying counterfeit alcohols.

A team led by researchers from the university used sub-microscopic slices of the two metals to act as the “tastebuds” in the artificial “tongue”. The tastebuds are about 500 times smaller than their human equivalents. The team poured samples of whisky over them and measured how they absorb light while submerged.

Statistical analysis of the very subtle differences in how the metals in the artificial tongue absorb light, known as plasmonic resonance, allowed the team to identify different types of whiskies. The tongue was able to taste the differences between the drinks with greater than 99 percent accuracy, according to the study.

“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,” said Dr Alasdair Clark from the university.

“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,” Dr Clark also said.