One of the strongest of all the human senses is probably the sense of smell. Humans can detect more than one trillion different smells, according to a study by researchers at The Rockefeller University. The human nose can identify the scent of a flower, detect rotten food, or know when it’s time for a shower. This sense of smell is being recreated in a device by researchers at Seoul National University.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Tai Hyun Park, a professor in the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Seoul National University in Korea has developed a bioelectronic nose that mimics the human nose. The device can detect traces of bacteria in water by smelling it, without the need for complex equipment and testing. The technology works by using the smell receptors in the human nose. The sensor is simple to use an edit can detect tiny amounts of contamination in water, making it more sensitive than existing detection methods. The new sensor can sniff out low levels of bacteria and other microbes by detecting the off flavor they give off.
The traditional way to test for contamination is to grow the bacteria in the lab, count the number of colonies and calculate the concentration of the bacteria in the water. Another way is to detect the smells directly, using techniques that require large scientific equipment, such as chromatography or mass spectroscopy. Dr. Park and the team wanted to develop a more convenient, compact device for testing water that is suitable for using on-site. “Our eventual goal is to develop a real human nose-like bioelectronic nose” said Dr. Park. “In the human nose, there are about 400 different olfactory receptors.
A smelling device could be very useful for many different industries; the smell industry such as perfume, cosmetics, wine and coffee. Certain diseases, such as lung cancer, can cause patients to give off particular smells. There is also a role for this device in security, for example in drug searches at airports.