Similar to the e-nose technology, the electronic tongue, or e-tongue, mimics the human tongue, but it is more sensitive to flavors in foods. The e-tongue sensors can detect substances in parts per trillion and could be used in packaging to trigger a color change that would alert the consumer if a food had become contaminated or if it had begun to spoil.
Food researchers believe the electronic tongue is going to be vital to food studies. As an example, a meat package with a built-in tongue can taste the first signs of spoilage and activate a color change as a warning to the consumer.
The electronic tongue is made from a silicon chip that has microbeads arrayed on it. Each of the beads responds to different analytes. The different analytes of the e-tongue are similar to the taste buds on the human tongue. The e-tongue responds to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes in a similar fashion as the taste buds on your tongue do.
The food and beverage industries may see the potential to use the e-tongue to develop a digital library of tastes. The collected data would include tastes that have been proven to be popular with consumers. The e-tongue could also monitor the flavors of existing products. Probably more importantly, the e-tongue could be used for brand security and tracking the supply chain of foods that normally cannot be tagged with traditional bar codes.
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