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Development of an electronic nose for characterization the level of maturation of aged sugar cane spirits (cachaças)


In order to add quality to cachaça, aging in barrels of wood is essential aiming to increase the chemical and sensorial profile. The determination of the level of spirit maturation is influenced by several factors, such as species of wood used to manufacture the barrels, the application or the degree of internal burning, the number of uses of the barrel and the aging time. The level of maturation of the distillate can be determined using the concentration of aging-markers phenolic compounds extracted from the wood of the barrel and their relations with each other. This determination currently depends on costly chromatographic analysis, which turns impracticable the frequent monitoring of the level of maturation. The development of an electronic nose, an equipment composed by an array of gas sensors, a microcontroller and a classification algorithm, can turn viable economically and operationally the surveillance of sugar cane spirit aging process for cachaça industry, producers and small laboratories. The objective of this study is to characterize the aging process of cachaça using an electronic nose, by correlating this equipment with the mechanism of lignin degradation during the maturation of the spirit in wooden barrels. Aged cachaças will be studied for up to 60 months of ageing process in barrels of different wood species (oaks and tropical woods), without or with internal burning (with different intensities) and various use conditions (new use, second use and extensive use). The evaluation is based on analyzing the aging markers (derived from lignin degradation) through High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and evaluation of samples spectrum obtained through the electronic nose prototype sensors array. It is expected to develop an innovative methodology to determine the level of aging of cachaça based on values read by different sensors, multivariate analysis and an artificial neural network algorithm, which can be transformed into a commercial product able to fulfill the necessities of producers and small research centers that aim for quality pattern control of aged cachaças. (AU)

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