Scary: New Taste Analyzer Mimics Human Perception Of Flavors

From Nikkei:

Friday, March 10, 2006

New Taste Analyzer Mimics Human Perception Of Flavors

KYOTO (Nikkei)–A Keio University research group led by chemistry professor Koji Suzuki has developed a taste analyzer that can evaluate beverages quickly and with high precision, identifying flavors in a humanlike way that includes the ability to detect sweet-sour and bitter-but-tasty flavors.

The device analyzes the sample liquid using a set of eight electrodes, each carrying a different compound to detect the eight main substances that trigger human sensations of flavor on the tongue: the ions sodium, potassium, hydrogen and chlorine, and the molecules sucrose, glucose, glutamate and caffeine.

Depending on the concentrations of these substances in the sample beverage, the electrodes exhibit different changes in electric current and potential. This information is processed using a neural network to compare the concentration data with a database of taste sensations as described by some 50 humans. The result is a pentagonal graph that depicts the overall flavor of the beverage by their relative degrees of saltiness, sourness, sweetness, bitterness and umami taste.

Suzuki hopes to develop a practical version of the system that can be used by beverage makers to manage quality control. He says the goal is to set up a venture company and commercialize a product within two years.

(The Nikkei Business Daily Friday edition)