Have you ever wanted to taste food without eating it? The future is nearly ready for you, with researchers from Meiji University in Japan using LED lighting to replicate taste on the human tongue.
The study was done by Homei Miyashita, who names the "taste gadget" the "Norimaki Synthesizer". How does it work? It uses uses ion electrophoresis in five electrolyte gels to (at least in its early stages) recreate the five basic tastes. The study kicked off being inspired by how our eyes can be tricked into seeing something that doesn't necessarily exist.
For example, the monitor or screen you're sitting in front of consists of red, green, and blue (RGB) elements that combine to create full-cover images and video. Miyashita thought that he could use a similar method to trick the human tongue into "tasting" something that isn't there -- thus, the taste display was born.
How does it work? The Norimaki Synthesiser is a cylinder-like shape that hasd a series of long tubes -- which all use glycine to recreate the tastes of sweet, acidic, salty, bitter, and savoury.
A user will press it up against their tongue, where they can choose to experience all of the flavors at once -- or they can go specific through each of the five 'flavors'. The prototype Norimaki Synthesiser is wrapped in copper foil, which is useful -- as you hold it it with your hand and as it touches the surface of your tongue, an electrical circuit is formed through the human body. This enables a technique known as "electrophoresis".
What is electrophoresis? It's a "laboratory technique used to separate DNA, RNA, or protein molecules based on their size and electrical charge. An electric current is used to move molecules to be separated through a gel. Pores in the gel work like a sieve, allowing smaller molecules to move faster than larger molecules" according to the Genome.gov website.
How did the tests go? Well. The Norimaki Synthesiser has allowed tests to experience flavors across the board, ranging from gummy candy through to sushi -- all without "eating" a single one of them.
I can't imagine how the Norimaki Synthesiser would go in a post COVID-19 world with social distancing and wiping every surface down between uses, but I guess we'll see. It's another one of those "Only in Japan" things, eh?