The Discovery Channel is presenting a special on SPOT-NOSED, an e-nose project reported by us back in May.
Here’s their teaser:
The mechanical sniffer, currently undergoing development and testing as part of a project called SPOT-NOSED, could dramatically change how doctors diagnose illness.
The technology behind the device was inspired by the human nose, but its effectiveness is comparable to more sensitive animal noses.
“The human nose is not especially well suited for odor recognition, as compared to the noses of dogs or rats,” said Oscar Ruiz, who is working on the project.
Ruiz, a professor in the Department of Electronics at the University of Barcelona, Spain, added, “There are some groups in the world that have trained dogs to diagnose some diseases like melanoma or prostate cancer in urine.”
He explained to Discovery News that the sniffing device could do something similar, only it would use bioelectric sensors.
The gadget consists of a layer of proteins, designed to mimic natural olfactory receptors, placed on a gold microelectrode mounted on a two-millimeter-long computer chip.
One end of the chip is immersed in a liquid cell containing additional microelectrodes, all of which connect to an instrument that measures electrochemical changes.
At present, the researchers are pumping odor-causing chemicals into the liquid cell to record the signature spectrums that result when the nose receptors encounter them. Skin cancer cells, for example, create distinctive electrochemical patterns, as do bacterial infections, failing organs and other tissue cells, even when they are healthy.
So far, the researchers have worked with an olfactory receptor protein from rats and one from humans. The proposed electronic nose will need several hundred such proteins to detect multiple smells.