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Analytical Capabilities

Sensory Science Program Text with WSU School of Food Science Text below it

Food Analysis Facilities and Services

We have the capability and capacity to run numerous analyses on foods and beverages.  For the analysis of flavours and aromas (volatile compounds), we have one gas chromatography/olfactometer/mass spectrometer (HP/Agilent 6890N).  This system is compatible with SPME (solid-phase microextraction), SPDE (solid phase dynamic extraction) and liquid injection. We also have a gas chromatograph (HP/Agilent 5890N) equipped with stir bar sorptive extraction (SBSE) capabilities.

We also have capabilities to run full characterization of foods and beverages.  This includes the analysis of fats and proteins.  For carbohydrate analysis, we have access to high performance liquid chromatography to allow for the identification of specific carbohydrates.  We also have the capabilities to run nutrient analysis, as well as other general food and beverages characterizations.

Electronic Tongue

The electronic tongue is an analytical instrument that quantifies non-volatile organic and inorganic compounds in a sample and similar to the human tongue as it draws on the underlying principle of the neurophysiology of the sense of taste, the e-tongue can provide a “taste fingerprint” based on the non-volatile profile of the product.

The e-tongue that we have in the lab has seven membrane-coated sensors with an integrated pattern recognition system for the detection of the tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami, and well as for metallic and spicy notes.  In a typical operation of the electronic tongue, the sensors interact with the electrical properties of the analytes in solution and provide responses characteristic of the solution being assessed. The use of multivariate and regression analysis confers separation and prediction capabilities, respectively.

Click on the crimson text to watch a video of the e-tongue in action.

A researcher in a lab coat next to an laboratory machine
Dr. Charles Diako, Researcher

Click on the crimson text to listen to a wine tasting with the e-tongue.

A researcher using an analytical device in a laboratory

Dr. Kenny McMahon, Researcher



We have used the e-tongue to distinguish among different sweeteners and the relationship between sensory evaluation and the e-tongue response.  We found a strong correlation between the e-tongue and the consumer response to the perceived better and metallic attributes in the sweeteners.  We have also developed e-tongue methodology to determine differences among ages of cheese, as well as among ageing temperatures.


We have used the e-tongue to distinguish among wines make with different wine processing techniques, finding strong relationship between the e-tongue response and sensory evaluation of bitterness, sweetness and sourness, as well as with the mouthfeel attributes of ethanol and astringency. We have used the e-tongue to distinguish among wines considered to have a wine “fault” or sensory defect and control wines without that defect. Finally, we have used the instrument to distinguish among whites wines made using different wine processing treatments.

The e-tongue has been used to distinguish among different types of beer (ale, lager, stout), with results comparing favourably to sensory results. The e-tongue has been used to distinguish among different brands of apple cider, with results showing that the e-tongue could pick up differences among the samples in their sweet, sour and ethanol character.


Because of the difficulty in using sensory panels to profile pharmaceuticals, the e-tongue has been useful in profiling newly developed pharmaceuticals, including those developed for children, for the their bitter and metallic properties, often an issue in pharmaceuticals. These newly developed pharmaceuticals were then compared to those already available on the market.