Philippine Gov’t funded Sci-Tech Department unveiled the new developed -Electronic Nose – Tongue gadgets

DoST sets e-sensing tech in Ph

Is the aroma of freshly brewed espresso enough to wake you up in the morning? What more if you finally take in and enjoy that steaming cup of coffee for that perfect start for the day? But, what if you had a cold, wouldn't those sniffles stop your nose from perking you up?

Good thing there is now a technology that does the smelling and tasting for you — or even sense that that is not good coffee.

That is exactly how DOST-ITDI (Department of Science and Technology – Industrial Technology Development Institute) makes electronic sensing ensure that your foodstuffs are really what they are as claimed by producers and manufacturers, and get your money's worth – through such technologies as electronic tongue, or e-tongue and electronic nose, or e-nose.

These relatively new technologies have already been seeing action particularly in the food industry – such as in food classification, characterization, quality control, and safety assurance – and they have been more reliable and effective than human sensory panels and other lab procedures.

One example is at ITDI's Food Processing Division (FPD) where e-nose and e-tongue are now being used in studying and characterizing various foodstuffs such as virgin coconut oil, vinegars, soy sauces, and coffee to ensure their good quality and safety.

In a project with another division at ITDI, the Chemicals and Energy Division (CED), and DOST-Region IV-A for the coconut industry, the same e-nose and e-tongue technologies are being used alongside GC-MS (gas chromatography with mass spectrometry) in evaluating the flavor, maturity, and postharvest stability of makapuno products, among other factors.

The human senses of smell and taste, along with laboratory techniques such as GC-MS, had long been used for testing and evaluating the quality of foods, beverages, and pharmaceutical products.

The problem is that human senses are subjective and hard to reproduce, not to mention that the sensory panelists, human as they are, are prone to health issues, environmental conditions, fatigue, exposure to prior smell or taste analytes, and other factors that may affect their sensory perceptions.

Also, using GC-MS for analysis and interpretation of the results requires considerable amount of time and resources as well as human intervention to operate it.

You can only input a certain number of target analytes on a GC-MS, hence a limited data output to accurately assess the smell or taste of the sample or product.

"This is where the electronic nose and electronic tongue come in. These devices crudely mimic the abilities of their human counterparts by collecting data and convert them into more understandable sensory information," said FPD supervising science research specialist Dolly Villaseñor.

She added that "in the process, these e-nose/e-tongue technologies employ cross-selective sensors that detect far more molecules and in more varying degrees than the more conventional laboratory apparatus."

The e-nose, much like its human version, can sense the most volatile components in a sample, while the e-tongue can "taste" mostly dissolved compounds in a solution, much like a human tongue.

Results from these sensors are then interpreted using multivariate statistics software, such as Principal Component Analysis (PCA), Discriminant Function Analysis (DFA), Partial Least Squares (PLS), Soft Independent Modeling of Class Analogy (SIMCA), and Statistical Process/Quality Control (SQC).

In line with these trends, standardized methods of product analysis are now being developed and researchers at the FPD say "we are hopeful that using e-nose and e-tongue would help improve quality assurance of food products and help make sure that Filipino consumers get the quality and authentic food products they pay for".

And no humans can be blamed for sensing it wrong.

So now, you can be sure that that cup of coffee tastes and smells like, well, coffee. Good, authentic coffee. Thanks to e-nose and e-tongue.  

RRUdelaCruz, with reports from RMGomez and CNUCurtado, ITDI S&T Media Service. (http://is.gd/xTCN1f)

Manila Standard Today

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