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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

July 6, 2007 at 9:46 AM

Time for something completely different

I’ve got to put down the iPhone and head to Tri-Cities to cover this breakthrough: Rearchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory figured out how to use “ultrasonic backscattering” to track the quality of fermenting beer.

From a Technology Review story:

To employ the team’s system, the brewer would first have to run a controlled experiment to calibrate the ultrasound for tracking cell growth and concentration. This requires finding a strong relationship between the changes in a perfect batch as it ages and the changes in the sound strength and frequency as a signal backscatters off that batch’s aging microbes. Over its life cycle, each microbe will scatter the ultrasound signal in a characteristic way because, as the microbe grows, it will come to have different mechanical properties. The microbes will vibrate differently depending on how big they are, how much they weigh, and how they are clustered with other particles nearby. Once the sound signature of a flawless fermentation is obtained, that information can then be used to measure and perfect future batches as they ferment.

How do you define the perfect batch?

Comments | More in | Topics: Biotech

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