Sniffing out uses for the 'electronic nose'

March 10, 2008

Despite 25 years of research, development of an “electronic nose” even approaching the capabilities of the human sniffer remains a dream, chemists in Germany conclude in an overview on the topic. Their review of R&D on digital noses is in the current issue of ACS’ monthly journal Chemical Reviews.

In the article, Udo Weimar and colleagues describe major advances that have produced olfactory sensors with a range of uses in detecting certain odors. Electronic noses excel, for instance, at picking up so-called “non-odorant volatiles”— chemicals that mammalian noses cannot pick up like carbon monoxide.

Ideally, however, an electronic nose should mimic the discrimination of the mammalian olfactory system for smells — reliably identifying odors like “fruity,” “grassy” and “earthy” given off by certain chemicals. Until electronic noses become more selective, their roles probably will be limited to serving as valuable tools for tasks such as monitoring air quality and detecting explosives.

“The electronic nose has the potential to enter our daily life far away from well-equipped chemical laboratories and skilled specialists,” the article states. “Keeping its limitations in mind and adapted for a special purpose, this will be the future for the electronic nose for as long as the ability to smell odors rather than detect volatiles is still far away over the rainbow.”

Source: ACS

Explore further: Scientists develope electronic 'nose' that can predict pleasantness of novel odors

Related Stories

E-Noses: Testing their mettle against fly noses

July 29, 2009

( -- Scientists from CSIRO's Food Futures Flagship have made a breakthrough in efforts to extend the sensory range of 'electronic noses' (e-noses) by developing a system for comparing their performance against ...

A controversial theory of olfaction deemed implausible

June 5, 2015

Humans can discriminate tens of thousands of odors. While we may take our sense of smell for granted, it adds immeasurably to our quality of life: the aroma of freshly brewed coffee; the invigorating smell of an ocean breeze ...

Recommended for you

A village of bacteria to help frogs fight disease

October 7, 2015

The naturally occurring bacteria on a frog's skin could be the most important tool for helping the animal fight off a deadly skin disease, according to an experiment conducted by Virginia Tech researchers.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.