Page last updated: October 19, 2017
SORS device detects counterfeit alcohol

Researchers at The University of Manchester have developed the world's first handheld SORS device that can detect fake spirits whilst still in the bottle. SORS, or 'spatially offset Raman spectroscopy," devices give highly accurate chemical analysis of objects and contents beneath concealing surfaces, such as glass. It works by using 'an optical approach' where lasers are directed through the glass. SORS devices are already commercially available, being used for security and detection of hazardous materials and pharmaceutical analysis. This latest version, developed at the University's School of Chemistry in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB), is the first time such a tool has been used for a food or beverage product. Their research was published in Nature (September 21). Dr David Ellis, who co-authored the project, added: "Sales of illicit spirit drinks can also have serious health impacts when industrial alcohols or methanol are used by counterfeiters and unknowingly consumed, with multiple deaths reported worldwide each year... we have developed this approach, to ensure brand authenticity and to safeguard public health." The team tested the gadget on around 150 well-known brands of Scotch Whisky, rum, gin and vodka in closed glass containers, including 40 counterfeit products. As well as detecting the contents of fake alcohol, the researchers could also discriminate between multiple well-known Scotch Whisky brands and detect different levels of alcohol.
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