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 The Internet of Things: TU Graz researchers increase the dependability of smart systems
18.02.2019 | Technische Universität Graz

nachricht Stanford researchers create a wireless, battery-free, biodegradable blood flow sensor
09.01.2019 | Stanford University

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

Im Focus: A thermo-sensor for magnetic bits

New concept for energy-efficient data processing technology

Scientists of the Department of Physics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, detected the magnetic states of atoms on a surface using only heat. The...

Im Focus: The moiré patterns of three layers change the electronic properties of graphene

Combining an atomically thin graphene and a boron nitride layer at a slightly rotated angle changes their electrical properties. Physicists at the University of Basel have now shown for the first time the combination with a third layer can result in new material properties also in a three-layer sandwich of carbon and boron nitride. This significantly increases the number of potential synthetic materials, report the researchers in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Last year, researchers in the US caused a big stir when they showed that rotating two stacked graphene layers by a “magical” angle of 1.1 degrees turns...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers measure near-perfect performance in low-cost semiconductors

18.03.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Nanocrystal 'factory' could revolutionize quantum dot manufacturing

18.03.2019 | Materials Sciences

Long-distance quantum information exchange -- success at the nanoscale

18.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>