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The science of alcohol
The science of alcohol

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Week 8: Product protection and maintaining product provenance


In this final week of the course you will learn about some of the ways in which the alcohol industry uses analytical chemistry techniques to study their products.

You start by looking at how alcohol is measured, including a historical perspective, showing how spirits such as rum were tested to ensure they had not been ‘watered down’. You will look at how to use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of a beer and hence its final strength, something you may wish to do with your own homebrew experiment.

You will be introduced to modern analytical chemistry techniques such as mass spectrometry and infra-red spectroscopy which are used to ensure product providence. Finally, you will learn about the chemistry behind the breathalyser which is used to measure alcohol in breath for safety when driving.

By the end of this week, you will be able to:

  • illustrate the importance of product protection
  • describe how a hydrometer works to measure specific gravity
  • discuss how modern analytical instruments are used towards product protection
  • explain how a breathalyser works and how the presence of alcohol can be detected in commonly-used roadside tests.