Prise winners list

Development of a practical 'taste sensor' and establishment of international standards for a 'taste gauge'

Atsugi-City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Intelligent Sensor Technology, Inc
Other award winners
Yoshikazu Kobayashi, Eigou Chin, Etsunobu Naito
Recommended by
Kanagawa Industrial Promotion Center

Ikezaki, Hidekazu  (51)

Produce a sensor that imitates a human tongue as much as possible. This idea broke the common knowledge that "taste cannot be measured"

Different from eyesight and acoustic sense, sense of taste was said to be impossible to measure. To be accurate, the substances contained in foods and drinks could be analyzed, but they could not be converted into taste. Even in an organoleptic examination, in which professionals distinguish differences in taste and flavor, it is very rare that they coincide with each other in evaluation. Sense of taste is so different among people. 1n 1989 when Mr. Ikezaki was working for the laboratory of Anritsu Corporation, he started research jointly with Kyusyu University that was studying on taste sensor which imitated a human tongue. He bought that business from Anritsu and established his present company in 2002. The company commercialized a taste sensing device "TS-5000Z" in 2007. More than 200 sets of the device were introduced by foods and medical-drug manufacturers to develop new products and use it in quality control of their products based on "objective taste".


Surprising technology that quantifies "richness and sharpness" as wells as taste

Haven't you been fed up with reporters who say too often in a gourmet cooking show, "It tastes very good!"? In fact, it is not so easy to convey an objective taste.
Out of our five senses, eyesight depends on light, acoustic sense on sound wave, and tactile sense on pressure and temperature. These can be measured physically in wavelength or as weight on a hand. Senses of taste and smell, however, depend on various chemicals, and so it is said to be impossible to measure these senses. For example, a cup of tea contains about 500 sapid substances and in addition, there is interaction between bitter and sweet tastes.
"Our taste sensing device succeeded in quantifying "tastes people feel" for the first time in the world. We succeeded in this development because we imitated a human tongue as much as possible.
When a sapid substance is absorbed by the bimolecular lipid membrane that covers the tongue surface, the membrane potential is changed and that information (electrical signal) is conveyed to the brain. This is the mechanism for sensing the taste. There is a potential difference in each taste and so a man discerns "sweetness and bitterness". 
"The device is equipped with a taste sensor that senses the basic tastes, namely sour taste, salty taste, bitter taste, sweet taste and delicious taste.
The essential part is an artificial lipid membrane installed on the tip of sensor. When a sapid substance is absorbed by the artificial membrane, the membrane potential is changed just like in a real membrane. Its output is analyzed by computer, and thickness and balance of tastes are measured."
Furthermore, this device can measure obscure senses such as "richness and sharpness". In fact, we sense the richness of taste during the time from when we begin to actually sense a taste until we stop sensing that taste. The longer this time (aftertaste) is, the better we sense the "richness". On the other hand, when this time is short, we feel that the taste is "sharp". If we measure the time change in the membrane potential, we can quantify these obscure senses. Since we imitated a real tongue, we could obtain this result.
By using this device, for example, we can indicate the richness as index numbers in the vertical axis and the sharpness in the horizontal axis and can indicate those tastes of several manufacturers' food products on a graph. Such a comparison graph is already printed on the package of some food products such as dried bonito. In addition, this sensing device is also used to develop food products according to the differences in preferred taste among regions.

A taste gauge will enable people to enjoy a richer dietary life. The company aims to create a "world map of taste"

In 1989 when Mr. Ikezaki was working for the laboratory of Anritsu Corporation, he started research jointly with Professor Tokou of Kyusyu University who planned to produce a taste sensor that imitated a human tongue. He says, "Honestly at first, I was a little bit doubtful if I could produce such a device."
"I could understand the principle that I should produce an artificial tongue, but actually knew nothing about how to design it. I produced a test sensor, but its operation was unstable and I found about three hundred problems with it. Although I solved all those problems within six months, the sensor didn't work well. Some people said to me, "Stop wasting your time."
The technical problems were not the only problems they had. Some staff said, "We don't know what is discussed in our company's management meeting. Our board members are not punctual and do not keep the due dates." Mr. Ikezaki keeps the documents that recorded these complaints in red ink. These documents recorded the meeting he had with his middle-level executives at his home. He was "criticized" in this meeting. However, his word "my treasure" is also indicated beside those severe words. 
"I was exposed to their criticism for six hours. But I knew what they said was all correct. In focused on development of technology too much and resultantly neglected management. What is important is employees. Their severe critical words reminded me of this fact and so I could make a success. Therefore these documents are my "treasure". 
The taste-sensing device equipped with an innovative taste sensor is already used in Europe and Asia.
"I wish to use this device as a "taste gauge" that can be commonly used in the world. Then the device can contribute to development of various food cultures and by using it, we will be able to create a "world map of taste". The device may also be used to study the roots of human's food cultures."
Eating and tasting are indispensable actions for men. A device made in Japan enables us to start research in that field.

Intelligent Sensor Technology, Inc

Jan. 2002
95 million yen
33 (as of Dec. 2009)
Brief information:
Specializes in taste sensing devices. The company plans to develop an economical handy device and market its products in emerging countries and others.

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The tip of sensor, on which a lipid membrane that imitates a human tongue is mounted


The taste sensing device "TS-5000Z". Each sensor protruding downward senses the respective tastes such as "salty taste and delicious taste" and those measured tastes are analyzed and evaluated comprehensively.


Properties of tastes such as "salty-sweet taste" and "thick delicious taste" are displayed in image.