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After years of research on a small device that can sniff out a variety of volatile compounds, scientists are working with a company to bring the resulting prototype – an electronic nose – to market. “This is a really important step,” Professor Myung (UC Riverside) said. “The prototype clearly shows that our research at the university has applications in industry.”
Sensor developed by Nosang Myung that can detect airborne toxins.
People from the industry expect to begin selling the e-nose within a year. Recently effort has been put into writing software related to the device and working to make it smaller. It is currently about 10 cm by 18 cm.
The sensor is believed to be very sensitive—it can detect specific molecules in parts per billion. The e-nose technology could be used for environmental monitoring, such as a gas spill. The sensor could also help in treating diseases, monitoring of air quality and detection a potentially harmful airborne agent.
Some researchers, however, are skeptical about an e-nose’s ability to analyse components of relatively simple mixtures of volatile organic compounds (VOC). “Among the challenges to obtaining clinically useful measurements of breath VOCs, such as acetone or other possible disease markers, one of the toughest is reliably differentiating the marker or markers from the background VOCs found in breath,” says Edward Zellers, a professor at the University of Michigan.