Artificial tongue set to stop fake alcohol

An artificial tongue could change the way we test food and alcohol, potentially improving industry safety testing and quality control.
An artificial tongue could change the way we test food and alcohol, potentially improving industry safety testing and quality control.

AN artificial tongue developed by scientists in Scotland is set to taste its way to combating alcohol counterfeiting and improving food safety testing, a new study has found.

Lead author Dr Alasdair Clark and his team from the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering tested the “tongue” with different whisky samples.

They found it was able to taste the differences between different types of whisky from Glenfiddich, Glen Marnoch and Laphroaig with 99 per cent accuracy, including the same brands, but differently aged varieties.

“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,” Dr Clark said.

The team is not the first to make an artificial tongue, which did not identify the individual chemicals that can make certain drinks taste differently, but only tasted the difference between them.

The device is made up of two sub-microscopic slices of gold and aluminium, arranged in a checker-board pattern and is about 500 times smaller than it’s human equivalent.

Researchers say it works by analysing how the nanoscale tastebuds absorb light.

They say the tongue can be used to taste virtually any liquid, making it suitable for a 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,” Dr Clark said.

The research is published in the journal Nanoscale, on Tuesday.