Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nose-on-a-chip Aims To Mimic The Real Thing

04.03.2002


An ambitious project is underway to build the world’s smallest electronic nose.

If the project succeeds, it is expected that the technology would have many potential applications in areas such as environmental monitoring, healthcare and food safety.

The aim is to combine the odour sensors together with the signal processing components on to a single silicon chip, around a square centimetre in size. The instrument would require very little power and could be held comfortably in the palm of the hand.



The project is being carried out by scientists and engineers from the universities of Leicester, Warwick and Edinburgh, with funding from the Swindon based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Electronic noses have been around for some years, and are used in the food, beverage and perfumery industries. However, the machines are large, have limited sensitivity and need to be re-calibrated frequently.

“We are hoping we can improve on existing systems by following biology much more closely,” says Dr Tim Pearce of the University of Leicester, who is co-ordinating the research. “The information processing of our system is very much inspired by how the olfactory system works in nature.”

In common with most existing electronic noses, the sensing part of the device will consist of arrays of electrically conductive polymers. However, the new system intends to process and interpret the signals in a way much more akin to biology.

“When sufficient numbers of odour molecules interact with an olfactory receptor neuron in the real nose, an action potential is induced – a spike of voltage that is sent down a nerve fibre to be processed by the olfactory pathway of the brain,” says Dr Pearce. “We will design our system to do a similar thing. When the mixture of odour molecules meets our sensor array, a volley of spikes will be generated. If there is a high concentration of odour molecules, trains of spikes will be generated and their frequency will be proportional to the concentration of the molecule.”

This ‘neuromorphic’ approach introduces a time factor into the system – the number of spikes per second – unlike the signals in conventional electronic noses, which usually ignore time information. This gives the signal processor another layer of information, which could be useful, for example, when trying to distinguish between complex mixtures of odour molecules.

At Warwick University Professor Julian Gardner is assembling novel mechanisms for channelling the odours on to the sensor arrays. Professor Gardner says, “We are taking recent developments in the fields of nanotechnology and polymer physics to design novel microsystems that are able to mimic our nasal passages and olfactory sensors. Combining such technologies with biologically-inspired signal processing methods developed at Leicester and Edinburgh should lead to a new generation of so-called micro-noses or a nose-on-a-chip.”

At Edinburgh Dr Alister Hamilton’s team is devising ways to integrate the whole system on to a single silicon chip. “We are designing analogue circuits that interface to the sensor array developed at Warwick, and sending the signals into some analogue circuits that mimic the mammalian olfactory system,” says Dr Hamilton. “We’re using parallel analogue computation strategies that are derived from biology rather than implementing a conventional digital processor. By concentrating on very low power consumption analogue circuits we hope to produce a system with long battery life.”

Jane Reck | alphagalileo
Further information:
http://www.le.ac.uk/eg/tcp1/avlsi/

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Stealth Virus for Cancer Therapy
31.01.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht New formulas for exploring the age structure of non-linear dynamical systems
23.01.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stiffness matters

22.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Magnetic field traces gas and dust swirling around supermassive black hole

22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

First evidence of surprising ocean warming around Galápagos corals

22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>