News Release

Sweet Victory: Sensor detects adulteration in honey

The microwave microstrip line planar resonator sensor detects added water in honey

Peer-Reviewed Publication

American Institute of Physics

Honey jars on a shelf


Jars of honey line the shelves at a grocery store.

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Credit: American Institute of Physics

Adulteration is a bitter truth in the sweet world of honey. As consumers seek nature’s nectar for its purity and health benefits, a shadowy industry taints this golden elixir with hidden additives, most commonly water.

Standard detection methods of honey adulteration are expensive, and either have complicated operation methods or low detection accuracy.

In Review of Scientific Instruments, from AIP Publishing, a team of scientists from the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Hebei University of Technology developed a microwave microstrip line planar resonator sensor tool to detect water adulteration in honey. The tool is compact, cost-effective, and easily fabricated.

The microstrip line resonator sensor is fabricated on a dielectric substrate, which is an insulator that can efficiently support electrostatic fields, such as ceramic or glass. On top there are three thin copper strips separated by two gaps. The length of the middle strip and the electric field intensity at the gaps determine the resonance frequency of the device.

“When we add water to honey, it changes how the electromagnetic field behaves around it,” said author Zhen Li. “When placed in the sensor, adulterated honey shifts the sensor’s resonance frequency. By measuring this shift, we can detect water adulteration in honey.”

The team tested honey samples with varying water content. They found that the sensor's resonance frequency consistently decreases with increased added water content.

“When choosing a honey product, my family members always have the concerns of whether it is authentic or not,” said Li. “This sensor provides a cost-effective and efficient method for the food industry to ensure honey authenticity.”

The device inspires further applications in liquid analysis, in industries such as food quality control, pharmaceuticals, and petrochemicals, for detecting impurities or composition changes, potentially advancing sensing technology.

“We aim to extend our research to detect adulteration in other liquid products and develop more sensitive sensors for broader applications in quality control and food safety,” said Li, “starting with the impact of temperature on our sensor's performance.”

With the dedication of scientists like those behind this efficient sensor, we can look forward to a future where the honey in our jars remains untainted and as pure as the bees intended.


The article “Evaluation of adulteration in honey using a microwave planar resonator sensor” is authored by Qi Jin, Zhaozong Meng, Zhijun Chen, and Zhen Li. The article will appear in Review of Scientific Instruments on Oct. 10, 2023 (DOI: 10.1063/5.0166005). After that date, it can be accessed at


Review of Scientific Instruments publishes novel advancements in scientific instrumentation, apparatuses, techniques of experimental measurement, and related mathematical analysis. Its content includes publication on instruments covering all areas of science including physics, chemistry, materials science, and biology. See


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