An artificial throat that swallows, breathes, salivates and knocks back fizzy drinks has been developed to predict how a drink will taste.
While our tongue’s taste receptors identify only the basic flavours –sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami, finer distinctions are made in the nasal passages.
The first breath after swallowing picks up molecules from the drink or food and carries them in the nose.
The artificial throat is made of two glass tubes connected with a rubber tubing that could be closed with a clamp.
The top tube represented the mouth, the lower one the oesophagus. At the bottom of the set-up is an air jet, which sends gas up the tubes at the same rate as an average human exhalation.
The top part is filled with a test liquid. Once the “mouth” is full, the clamp is opened to release it. When the liquid drains leaving just a thin layer behind on the interior walls of the “oesophagus”, the air is turned on.
The “breath” is then sampled at the top of the device and analysed by a mass spectrometer. Tests show that all the flavours almost perfectly matched the breath aroma profiles from human panellists.
Last year, the University of Tsukuba in Japan created a device to put into the mouth and that is able to simulate many foods, including cheese, crackers, confectionery and Japanese snacks.