The University of California at Davis has one of the foremost viticulture and enology departments in the country, and possibly the world. The faculty and graduate students, both committed scientists and wine enthusiasts, spend years analyzing the various chemistry that goes into the production and aging of wines, striving to advance or even perfect the ways that we craft and enjoy them. However, recent technology designed with wine in mind may also soon help make our airports more secure.
Nearly ten years ago, prompted by a graduate student’s newfound interest in wine, UC-Davis researchers, led by professor Matt Augustine, began developing a “wine scanner” using the principles found in a medical MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine. After years of fine-tuning, the scanner has been able to accurately determine whether a sealed wine bottle still contains potable wine or whether that wine has degraded into vinegar.
As all air travelers are aware, a 2006 attempt by terrorists to blow up commercial airliners using liquid explosives prompted the Department of Homeland Security to adopt strict regulations on the size of any carry-on liquid containers, including beverages and toiletries. Augustine and his team are currently working to adapt the wine scanner so that it might be able to detect other liquids. The ideal situation, of course, will be to finally remove these restrictions due to a foolproof system that instantly differentiates between dangerous chemicals and harmless shampoo or fruit juice.
Here’s a short news report on this still developing, but exciting story…