Laboratory Equipment finds a whole new depth to that umami thing. French chemists have devised an artificial tongue sensitive enough to tell the difference between proteins:
Biosensors use specific ligands, such as antibodies, that selectively bind the molecules being detected. If the goal is to differentiate between different substances, a suitable ligand must be developed for each substance – a complex undertaking. In contrast, electronic noses and tongues use an array of different “receptors” that bind to the desired compounds with differing strengths. The receptors are sensitive toward multiple target molecules. The combined response of all receptors gives a specific pattern for each of the compounds detected. Because none of the receptors needs to be highly specific, they can be developed much more quickly and easily.
Since a lot of foods – and a lot of poisons – are proteins, this android tongue could save your life someday.