Detecting counterfeit whisky through the bottle
Using space technology, experts at the University of Leicester Space Research Centre are developing a way of identifying counterfeit whisky without opening the bottle. Colleagues at De Montfort University have provided skills in product design and rapid proto-typing to create a handheld device for the technology.
Fake and adulterated whisky costs the industry an estimated £500 million in lost revenue every year. Being able to detect a genuine or counterfeit article through the bottle, and without having to open it, would be a tremendous boost for the drinks industry. The technology could also be used for other liquids and drinks, such as fine wine, and could have major potential for airline security systems.
Food and Drink iNet support
Under its Collaborative Research and Development programme, the iNet awarded a £50,000 grant towards the almost £71,000 cost of the research project. This allowed researchers to adapt a technique, which was originally developed from novel technology designed and built by the Space Research Centre for astronomical research. It relies on detecting the differences between the characteristics of light reflected from printed packaging for use in the pharmaceutical world by the University of Leicester team in conjunction with university spin-out firm Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International Limited which is a specialist crime and security consultancy.
The technology has been adapted again for use in detecting fake liquids, with De Montfort University providing expertise in product design.
Since news of the technology and its potential application was revealed, there has been interest from around the world.
The project was crowned Food and Drink iNet Innovation Champion 2011 in recognition of the exciting potential for the technology in the food and drink sector.
Funding has now been secured from the Lachesis Fund, which provides venture capital investment to East Midlands universities to transform innovative research into commercial reality, and this is being used to produce a pre-production proto-type, with further development and marketing of the product to follow.
Tim Maskell, from The University of Leicester, said:
“The iNet has been fundamental to giving us the opportunity to pursue the early stage concept work. It was an ideal spur to pursue this particular application of the technology, and without the iNet we would not have been able to do it at that time. The Leicestershire County Council Trading Standards Office has shown an interest in our counterfeit detection technology and we are working with them to explore this and other applications.”