A pocket-sized device enables detection of methanol adulteration in alcoholic beverages


Alcoholic drinks contaminated, either accidentally or deliberately, by methanol claimed at least 789 lives in 2019, mostly in Asia. Here, a palm-sized, multi-use sensor–smartphone system is presented for on-demand headspace analysis of beverages. The analyser quantified methanol concentrations in 89 pure and methanol-contaminated alcoholic drinks from 6 continents and performed accurately for 107 consecutive days. This device could help consumers, distillers, law-enforcing authorities and healthcare workers to easily screen methanol in alcoholic beverages.

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Fig. 1: Analyser design.
Fig. 2: Performance in real beverages and laboratory samples.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available as source data or can be requested from the corresponding author.


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We thank the S. Fassbind AG in Oberarth, Switzerland for providing samples of distilled cherry spirit and M. Huber (ETH Zurich) for helping with the gas chromatography analysis of pure beverages. This study was primarily funded by the Particle Technology Laboratory (ETH) and in part by the Swiss National Science Foundation (projects 159763 and 175754; R’Equip grants 170729 and 183298).

Author information




S.A., S.E.P. and A.T.G. conceived the concept and experiments. S.A. and L.M. performed the experiments and the data evaluation. J.v.d.B. designed and provided the separation column and contributed to the experimental design. S.E.P. and A.T.G. were in charge and advised on all parts of the project. S.A., L.M., J.v.d.B., S.E.P. and A.T.G. co-wrote the paper. All authors gave final approval to the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andreas T. Güntner.

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Competing interests

A patent application has been submitted that covers the concept of selective methanol detection. Applicant: ETH Zürich; inventors: S.A., J.v.d.B., S.E.P. and A.T.G.; application number: DE2019011109582800; status: pending.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary methods, discussion, references, Figs. 1–13 and Table 1.

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Source Data Fig. 2

Numerical data used to generate graphs in Fig. 2.

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Abegg, S., Magro, L., van den Broek, J. et al. A pocket-sized device enables detection of methanol adulteration in alcoholic beverages. Nat Food 1, 351–354 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-020-0095-9

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