Researchers from Dresden University of Technology developed hydrogel-based piezoresistive ethanol sensors for the detection of ethanol in alcoholic beverages
The techniques to determine concentration of ethanol find significant application in industries such as food and beverages, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. Such techniques are predominantly used to accurately measure ethanol concentration in alcoholic beverages, owing to the stringent regulations of the European Union for the labeling of alcoholic beverages. The brewery industry often relies on devices such as hydrometers for this purpose. However, the results may vary from person to person as they depend on the expertise of the operator. The temperature at which the sample is tested can also influence the results. Other techniques such as high-performance liquid chromatography may not be affordable to small companies.
Now, a team of researchers from Dresden University of Technology developed a new approach using stimuli-responsive hydrogels and piezoresistive pressure sensors to detect ethanol concentration in alcohol. According to the researchers, these alcohol sensors have low manufacturing costs, a simple sensor set-up, and in-line process capability. Therefore, these alcohol sensors can find application a wide variety of industrial and chemical processes. The team described detailed sensor characterization of the new sensor. In the process, the team transformed the swelling pressure of the hydrogel via a piezoresistive pressure sensor into a measurable output voltage.
According to the researchers, such sensors can be used to measure ethanol concentration over a wide range of 50% ethanol (by volume). The process can also offer high sensitivity. The team tested the sensor at different pH levels ranging from 7.4 to 4 and found no influence on the sensor signal. However, higher concentrations of salts can have a marginal impact on the measurement. In a vodka sample, the concentration was determined with a sufficient measuring uncertainty. Moreover, the team also found that the approach can be used to detect even small changes in the alcohol concentration due to the low limit of detection and limit of quantification, respectively. The new sensor was compared with commercially available sensor systems and further sensor concepts in research and development. The team concluded that hydrogel-based piezoresistive ethanol sensors can be used as an efficient alternative to determine ethanol concentration in alcoholic beverages. The findings were published in the journal MDPI Sensors on March 8, 2019.
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