Physicists detect counterfeit whiskey using spectroscopy
on 03/11/11 at 10:41 amBooze News
Physicists Praveen Ashok, Bavishna Praveen, and K. Dholakia working together at the University of St Andrews in Scotland have developed a method for testing whiskey for authenticity using a crafted device that allows for measurements via spectroscopy. The results of their research have been published in the journal Optics Express.
While it has long been known that spectroscopy could be used to analyze the components of whiskey, or any liquid that allows light to pass though it for that matter, previous models have required a lengthy setup process by a technically savvy person. This new process, in contrast, can be conducted by virtually anyone at any location once the device is sold commercially.
The device is actually nothing more than a microfluidic chip made of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a type of clear plastic that has had horizontal channels carved into it to allow the insertion of fiber cables and vertical channels for the input and output of tiny whiskey samples. The reason it has been set up this way is to prevent evaporation of alcohol while the sample is being tested.
Once set up the apparatus looks like a flat piece of clear plastic about a quarter inch thick with four channels in it, all leading to its center. The channel or hole on top is where the whisky goes in. One channel leads to one side that is connected to a suction device for pulling the whisky through the channels. Two other channels leading to two other edges respectively are for holding fiber optic cables. One going in, the other out to the spectrometer.
To run the device, a drop of whiskey is dropped into the hole on top. It is then shot with a laser via the fiber optic cable and then read by spectrometer on the other end of the output fiber cable. The whiskey output channel is used for pulling the whisky back out so that the channels can be cleaned and the device reused.