Everyone loves salt, but sadly salt doesn’t love us back — in the US, 30% of adults have high blood pressure, and sodium intake is one of the biggest factors contributing to that. The obvious solution is to use as little salt as possible, but that leaves food tasting bland and unsatisfying. Thankfully, a special pair of chopsticks built by Nimesha Ranasinghe could let you experience that great salty taste without actually consuming any salt.
Nimesha Ranasinghe is an assistant professor and director of the University of Maine’s Multisensory Interactive Media Lab, and started his research on electric taste stimulation while he was a Ph.D. student at the National University of Singapore’s CUTE Center. A major focus of the research at CUTE Center is on sending sensations remotely, and there Ranasinghe began investigating how to transmit flavors over the internet. During his research, he found that precise electrical stimulation of the tongue could produce taste sensations.
Ranasinghe was able to recreate saltiness, sourness, and bitterness tastes, but sweetness was too difficult to produce and umami was too difficult for testers to identify. Saltiness was reliable and pleasant, so he developed a set of chopsticks that could provide the flavor electrically. In the base of the chopsticks, there is a battery and an Arduino to control the voltage and frequency of the electricity. The chopsticks themselves are metal, and act as electrodes. In testings, subjects were able to consistently perceive saltiness when using the chopsticks, which could make these very useful for reducing sodium intake.