12 January - 20 June 2016

Ensuring food quality using an electronic "tongue"

19 November 2014

S V Litvinenko and his colleagues from the University of Kiev described earlier this month, via ACS Applied Material & Interfaces journal, how an electronic “tongue” could be used in the future to quality check food and drinks before being sold to consumers. The researchers have developed an environmentally friendly “tongue” which mimics how we distinguish tastes. The “tongue” has tiny sensors which can detect substances in the sample and sends them to the computer for processing. The new technique, according to the authors is based on a 2D mapping of photo-generated charge carrier lifetimes in silicon when in contact with different liquids.  The intrinsic sensitivity of the silicon surface states to the surrounding liquids allows creation of their characteristic electronic fingerprints.

Related devices are currently sued in the food and drink industry, from testing the authenticity of some products to measuring the quality of beer, though the researchers believe that these can be limited.  This new low cost silicon can be easily incorporated into existing electronic monitoring systems of the same material and is also designed to have wider applications.

The new silicon based “”tongue” is designed so that it has the potential to be used for medical diagnostics, pharmaceutical testing and environmental monitoring as well. Another development in this area was announced in September this year, when researchers from Aarhus University (Denmark) developed an artificial “tongue” that can measure the dryness of wine using a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) based nanosensor. [Eureka Alert] [Science Daily]

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