Breakthrough calls time on bootleg booze

May 20, 2013
A new technique for detecting dangerous fake whisky, and other spirits, has been developed by researchers at the University of St Andrews.

(Phys.org) —Using a laser, the St Andrews scientists can now carry out detailed analysis of a spirit sample no bigger than a teardrop and can even confirm whether it is toxic or not. It's hoped the testing breakthrough will help cut the worldwide toll of death and serious injury arising from consumption of fake and adulterated spirits.

This technique could see portable detectors created which would allow people to test their drinks when out and about.

Writing in the Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, Praveen Ashok, Bavishna Balagopal and Professor Kishan Dholakia of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University, reveal how they can place a "teardrop" of on a transparent "plastic chip, no bigger than a credit card".

Light is then delivered to, and collected from, the liquor sample using - each has the dimensions of a - to diagnose the sample by a collection of light scattered from it.

Previous work by the team showed they were able to investigate and discriminate single malt Scotch whiskies based on brand, age and even which cask had been used.

The method exploits both the fluorescence of the whisky and also what is known as the Raman signature of the whisky - this is when light scatters but shifts slightly in energy due to interaction with the molecules in the sample. The latest study now shows this elegant technique is highly sensitive and can be used to detect trace toxic additives such as at concentrations of less than 1 per cent by volume.

Researcher Praveen Ashok said: "Sadly, many people lose their lives each year to bootleg drinks and our hope is to see this powerful, simple technology used to alleviate this serious issue".

Researcher Bavishna Balagopal said: "It is exciting to see the surprising and powerful ways modern can help people, particularly in ."

Professor Kishan Dholakia added: "This technology not only can ensure a high degree of for the international drinks industry but could also lead to portable sensors to ensure everyone can enjoy a drink, safe in the knowledge that no toxic additives are present."

Toxic liquor claims hundreds of lives all around the world every year. Especially in Afro-Asian countries, where illegal moonshine liquors are common, methanol is often intentionally added to increase the effect of the liquor.

The researchers are hoping to interest industry with their technology which is patented.

Explore further: New terahertz device could strengthen security

More information: DOI: 10.1002/jrs.4301

Related Stories

Shedding new light on cancer

Jan 22, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of St Andrews have developed a powerful technique that could allow earlier cancer detection.

Whisky a no go

Jan 26, 2012

The Scottish Government is in danger of sabotaging the nation’s greatest export, according to a leading whisky expert.

Toxic alcohol kills 17 in southern India

Jan 02, 2012

At least 17 people have died from drinking toxic home-brewed alcohol in southern India, an official said on Monday, just weeks after a similar incident claimed 170 lives.

Recommended for you

New terahertz device could strengthen security

Nov 21, 2014

We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. And even after all the effort, we still wonder if these procedures ...

CERN makes public first data of LHC experiments

Nov 21, 2014

CERN today launched its Open Data Portal where data from real collision events, produced by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will for the first time be made openly available to all. It is expected ...

New technique allows ultrasound to penetrate bone, metal

Nov 20, 2014

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a technique that allows ultrasound to penetrate bone or metal, using customized structures that offset the distortion usually caused by these ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.