New Sensor Banishes Bad Beer

While wine can improve with age, beer decidedly cannot. Beer begins to lose its appeal over time thanks to an inevitable change in chemical composition that is largely influenced by storage conditions. To test freshness, beer manufacturers test for the compound furfural, which becomes more prevalent as beer becomes increasingly stale. Researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid have developed a new polymer sensor that seeks to keep beer drinkers happy through easy detection of the compound.

Replacing expensive testing

To date, brewers have generally measured the presence of furfural with chromatography techniques, but this requires expensive equipment and tends to be time consuming. As an alternative, a team of chemists developed a low-cost method that relies on a polymer sensor and can be controlled by a smartphone app. 

The sensor is made from a polymer much like what is used for contact lenses. In the presence of furfural the disc-shaped sensor turns from yellow to pink. Once the sensor is exposed to beer, the accompanying smartphone app analyzes a picture of the sensor to rate the level of furfural and thus the beer's degree of freshness.  

The sensor, which was developed for brewers, proved itself capable of comparable results when compared to more costly conventional testing.