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Scientists sniff out potential for electronic noses in brewing

By Guy Montague-Jones , 10-Jan-2011

A review published in Trends in Food Science & Technology has identified brewing as a growing market for electronic nose technology.

Brewers typically use trained experts to evaluate the aroma of beer and raw materials but an electronic nose that mimics the human one is being used more and more as a quality assessment tool.

Reviewing the literature on the subject, scientists from Iran and Spain said relying on the human nose has a number of potential drawbacks including slow evaluation, expense, subjectivity, and assessor fatigue.

E. nose advantages

The ability of electronic noses to overcome some of these problems has sparked an interest in them in recent years. The scientists said: “The demand for electronic noses in brewing is growing because the versatility and ease of operation of these instruments make them suitable for quick and accurate analysis of beers or for monitoring quality in the production process.”

But there are significant weaknesses to the technology that are restricting its application in breweries.

In particular, their sensing ability is affected by environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and background noise.

These challenges have prompted designers to combine an electronic nose array with a gas chromatography column or mass spectrometer. However, these machines are large and expensive, placing limitations on the potential application of the electronic nose.

Promising future

Despite this, the scientists said the future of the technology remains promising, especially in the context of continued advances in its capabilities.

New developments such as the artificial olfactory microsystem (e-mucosa) that promise a higher degree of differentiation than existing systems could make electronic noses more attractive in brewing.

With the trend towards automation and the development of complementary technologies such as electronic tongues, the review authors offered the following prediction for quality assessment in brewing.

“One interesting vision of the future would be to have a fully automated platform of different kinds of sensors to monitor the essential information required for the characterizing of quality of the raw material, process or product. Taste and gas sensors would make up a vital part of such a multisensory system. This may be realized in brewing in the near future.”

Source: Trends in Food Science & Technology
(2010), doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2010.12.005
Potential application of electronic nose technology in brewery
Authors: Ghasemi-Varnamkhasti, M., Mohtasebi, S.S., Rodriguez-Mendez, M.L., Lozano, J., Razavi, S.H., Ahmadi, H.

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