Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have developed an electronic nose, or e-nose, to sniff out whiskey imposters.

Often a target for fraud, whiskey can usually be authenticated by trained professionals or via chemical analysis, both of which can potentially be error prone and time-consuming. As such, the researchers developed an e-nose prototype, dubbed NOS.E.

Designed to distinguish among brands, origins and styles, NOS.E simulates the human olfactory system and relies on eight gas sensors to identify the different odors in a vial of whiskey. From this assessment, the sensor array creates a unique signal matrix based on the various odor molecules it encounters. That data is then sent to a computer for analysis where a machine learning algorithm capable of recognizing characteristics of whiskey is employed.

Using NOS.E, the team tested six different whiskey brand samples and successfully identified the respective whiskeys by brand name, region and style in under four minutes.

According to the team, NOS.E achieved 100% accuracy when identifying region, 96.15% accuracy for identifying brand name and 92.31% accuracy for identifying style. To confirm their findings, samples were also tested via time-of-flight mass spectrometry coupled with two-dimensional gas chromatography, yielding similar results.

Not limited to the alcohol industry, NOS.E could potentially be used to identify counterfeit items like high-end perfume or for the detection of illegal animal parts sold on the black market, such as black rhino horns, as well as for health applications and disease detection.

In 2019, similar technology emerged from a team of engineers and chemists from Scotland’s University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde, who worked together to develop an artificial tongue featuring nanoarrays that behave like human tastebuds to accurately distinguish among a variety of whiskeys.

Likewise, variations of the e-nose have also emerged in recent years, distinguishing various mint odors from one another, and detecting rotting meat and even cancer.

For more on NOS.E, read the article, The Use of Electronic Nose for the Classification of Blended and Single Malt Scotch Whisky, which appears in IEEE Sensors Journal.

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