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Artificial tongue developed to test whisky

Researchers have developed an "artificial tongue" which can detect if a whisky is the real deal.

A team at Heidelberg University in Germany have unveiled a synthetic tongue, which can single out different whiskies by monitoring their age and country of origin and ultimately their brand.

Dr Uwe Bunz, an organic chemist at Heidelberg University, said: "We can use this to detect fake whiskies. If you buy a crate of expensive whiskies, you can test if they are actually what you think they are."

The tongue works by using a combination of different dyes - 22 in all - which are mixed with the chosen whisky and can reveal more about the product as each day changes brightness slightly.

Dr Bunz added: "You need to mix a drop of whisky with each polymer separately to obtain a useful signal. That is not an issue as we only need three different polymers. This could be used to look for counterfeit whiskies both on the mass market end and also at the super-high end."

The 'tongue' style design is made of small holes on a plastic tray filled with individual polymers. The whisky is then placed into each well and put into a plate reader.

The team are now hoping to develop the idea to create kits, which can be sold to professionals and consumers to test if alcohol is fake oe not and there are also hopes the idea can be developed to test other types of alcohol and household goods.

Dr Bunz explained: "Each single polymer's response to the whisky would not be very useful, but if you combine them, they form a really unique pattern. What you can do for whiskies, you could in principle do for other consumer goods. You could do it yourself in a kitchen."

Whilst Professor Dr. Andreas Herrmann from the University of Groningen added: "Whiskies are complex mixtures, and their chemical composition is quite similar. For consumers who are non-professional experts, for similar whiskeys it is very hard to taste the difference. We are super-excited about our 'tongue' because it has an extremely sensitive tasting ability, probably even better than most of the sommeliers [out there]."

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