Daniel Attinger, a professor of mechanical at engineering at Iowa State University, is working on developing a tiny device that produces a continuous supply of wine. Bless you, Daniel Attinger.
Attinger, along with a team of researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, a Swiss research institute, hopes the micro-winery will aid wine experts in advancing their knowledge of the fermentation process. Fermentation, as a press release from the EPFL explains, is highly important to the flavor profile of wine—different strains of yeast produce different notes.
Attinger’s device is intended to help winemakers play with various fermentation processes. Its theoretical benefit comes in its speed and size—it’s able to continuously produce about one milliliter of wine per hour. (Regular fermentation processes can take roughly two weeks.)
The device has a main channel through which the grape juice winds its way. The yeast is placed in adjacent compartments and feeds into the main channel through a very thin membrane with holes called nanopores. It’s almost as if they were in little tea bags. When the grape juice reaches the yeasts, they absorb the sugar and give off alcohol and CO2 through the membrane. This process takes place very quickly, since the sugar and yeast are confined in such a small space.
Philippe Renaud, the head of EFPL’s microsystems laboratory, noted that the magical contraption could be used for home brewing, but added, “that’s more of a gimmick. It uses a simplified process and the result is currently not as good as normal wine.”