September 3, 2008

Particle Accelerator Used To Date Vintage Wines

One of France's top research bodies said this week that French scientists have devised a way of using particle accelerators to authenticate vintage wines.

The National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) said in a statement that the new method tests the age of the glass in wine bottles by analyzing X-rays emitted when the bottles are placed under ion beams produced by a particle accelerator.

"This enables the age of bottles and their origin to be verified and thus a vintage to be authenticated, a bit like the signature of a painter on a masterpiece, all without opening the bottle and without affecting in any way the content," it said.

Researchers said by comparing the results with a database containing detailed information on 80 bottles from the Bordeaux region from the 19th century to the present day, the tests can help indicate the vintage of many wines.

The CNRS said: "Authentication is possible due to the complexity of the processes of glass manufacture which have evolved over time and to the variety of production centers which give each object a characteristic 'signature' made up of many elements."

Particle accelerators work by taking a particle, such as an electron, and speeding it up to near the speed of light and smash it into an atom to discover its internal workings.

The authenticity test extends existing radioactivity tests on the actual wine itself, which are currently incapable of identifying vintages prior to 1950.

The London-based wine dealer, the Antique Wine Company, cooperated with the development tests.


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