Scientists at the University of St Andrews have developed an innovative method using lasers to accurately measure the authenticity of some of the world’s most exclusive whiskeys. There is no need to remove the bottle cap. The research is published by the journal Analytical Methods.
It is known that the famous bottles of whiskey are sold for over 100 million rubles. But if you are a lucky owner of such a whiskey, how can you be sure that the contents of the bottle are genuine? Counterfeit drinks cost the UK economy more than £ 200 million (RUB 19 billion) annually in lost profits, according to a 2018 study published by the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office.
New research led by scientists at the School of Physics and Astronomy has led to the development of a method using lasers that can see through a bottle to analyze the contents. The challenge was to record the content signal without recording the glass signals.
The team used the method of laser spectroscopy, a process in which laser light is directed at a substance of interest and a sample scatters the light into different colors. The exact colors of the scattered light depend on the chemical composition of the substance and can therefore be used to identify a variety of materials, from bacteria, food and drink, to paint on sculptures and explosive powders.
A group of postdoctoral students, Holly Fleming, Mingzhou Chen and Graham Bruce, led by Professor Kishan Dholakia, developed a new method for accurately measuring the contents of a bottle. Instead of illuminating the bottle with a standard laser beam, the team used a glass element. So they created a ring of laser light on the surface of the bottle and a tightly focused spot inside the liquid contents. Since the signal from the bottle and the signal from the liquid are in different positions, the detector can be placed to register only the signal from the liquid, which means that the contents of the bottle can be evaluated without even opening the bottle.
This approach does not require complex optical setups and therefore promises to be easily fabricated for widespread use. If whiskey isn’t to your liking, researchers have also demonstrated a method using vodka and gin. This means that in the future it will be possible to authenticate expensive alcohol without losing a drop.