Researchers at the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering have created an artificial tongue, which they say is so sophisticated it can tell the difference between different drams of whisky.
The team behind the tongue says it has an accuracy rate of more than 99% and could be used as a tool to crackdown on fake alcohol – thought to cost the UK roughly £1 billion a year.
The device uses the properties in gold and aluminium to test differences between spirits. The tech is so sensitive that it can discern the differences between the same brand of whisky that has been aged in different barrels, according to the researchers. It can apparently also identify differences between whiskies aged for 12, 15 and 18 years.
Alasdair Clark, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering, 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.
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“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.”
A selection of whiskies, including Glenfiddich, Glen Marnoch and Laphroaig, were used during the tests, which were carried out by engineers from the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde.