In a tour de force of electronic nose technology, Electronic Sensor Technology, LP, announced that its electronic nose, called the zNose(TM), rivals the experts at detecting TCA in cork, wine, even the air.

Finally, an electronic nose has demonstrated that it can detect 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA) in wine aroma at part-per-trillion (ppt) levels in 10 seconds!

While other electronic noses called eNoses have quoted sensitivities in the part-per-thousand range, the zNose(TM) raises the bar by more than a billion by achieving the same performance level as human wine experts. Details of the discovery and how it was tested are described in a paper just released entitled, "Detecting 2,4,6 TCA in corks and Wine Using the zNose(TM)." The paper is available at http://www.estcal.com/TechPapers/TCA_in_Wine.doc.

The zNose(TM) was tested on wines judged by California wine experts to contain TCA contamination and was able to identify and quantify the concentration of TCA in every case. All samples indicated ppt concentrations of TCA consistent with the commonly accepted expert olfactory detection threshold of 5 to 10 ppt.

Eliminating TCA and other taints from wine is a priority at virtually every vineyard, winery and cork supplier in the world. One of the main reasons for corkiness in wines has been determined to be 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA). TCA smells like musty old newspapers and can destroy a good bottle of wine. According to published studies, tainting in wine occurs in 1 to 2 percent of all bottles shipped, approximately 500 million per year. Such losses represent a significant waste and can adversely affect a wine's reputation and sales.

The availability of an electronic nose with the ability to maintain product quality at the part-per-trillion level is a significant breakthrough for the wine industry. Of all the chemical devices under development, an electronic nose to mimic the human olfactory response while also providing quantitative chemical analysis has been the most sought by wine producers because of its versatility and need.

The zNose(TM) is a fast and accurate olfactory tool designed to support, yet not replace, testing by sensory panels. While instruments can never replace the human sensor, the ability to quantify and understand the human perception of a wine's chemistry may provide valuable insights into how to define and quantify wine quality in chemical terms. Once the optimum chemistry is defined, the zNose(TM) will be able to compare and monitor the chemical composition and quality of the entire wine production process. In fact, Dr. Staples suggests, "No wine expert should leave home without one."

An electronic nose can be used to detect and screen bottles, containers and even wine cellars for TCA. It is not uncommon to find TCA in cooperage and wine cellars. Even a small trace amount of TCA can quickly contaminate the atmosphere, wines, barrels, tanks, corks and anything else within a wine cellar. Using an ambient air monitor, the zNose(TM) is able to detect TCA and other tainting vapors at sub-ppt levels.

Details of zNose(TM) technology and some of the more successful applications will be the subject of a presentation by Dr. Staples at the upcoming Knowledge Foundation Conference on Electronic Nose Technologies. Dr. Staples is chief scientist and managing director of Electronic Sensor Technology, LP., the company that produces the zNose(TM).

Electronic Sensor Technology (EST) is a California Limited Partnership Corporation formed in 1995. Amerasia Technology Inc., a California R&D Corporation, is the inventor of the zNose(TM) and also the founding partner of EST. The company currently has four patents and is seeking to expand its marketing, distribution and sales network by strategic alliances with major corporations. The first of these, a distribution agreement with the Hitachi Corporation of Japan, was completed in December of 1999.