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Mimicking the human olfactory system: a portable e-­mucosa

By Fauzan Khairi Che Harun

Abstract

The study of electronic noses has been an active area of research for over 25 years. Commercial instruments have been successfully deployed within niche application areas, for example, the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries. However, these instruments are still inferior to their human counterparts and have not achieved mainstream success. Humans can distinguish and identify many thousands of different aromas, even at very low concentration levels, with relative ease. The human olfactory system is extremely sophisticated, which allows it to out-­perform artificial instruments. Though limited, artificial instruments can provide a lower cost option to specific problems and can be an alternative to the use of organoleptic panels. Most existing commercial electronic nose (e-­nose) instruments are expensive, bulky, desktop units, requiring a PC to operate. In addition, these instruments usually require a trained operator to gather and analyse the data. Motivated to improve the performance, size and cost of e-­nose instruments, this research aims to extract biological principles from the mammalian olfactory system to aid the implementation of a portable e-­nose instrument. This study has focused on several features of the biological system that may provide the key to its superior performance. Specifically, the large number of different olfactory receptors and the diversity of these receptors; the nasal chromatograph effect; stereo olfaction; sniff rate and odour conditioning. Based on these features, a novel, portable, cost effective instrument, called the Portable e-­Mucosa (PeM), has been designed, implemented and tested. The main components of the PeM are three sensor arrays each containing 200 carbon black composite chemoresistive sensors (totalling 600 sensors with 24 different tunings) mimicking the large number of olfactory receptors and two gas chromatographic columns (coated with non-­polar and polar compounds to maximise the discrimination) emulating the “nasal chromatograph” effect of the human mucus. A preconcentrator based on thermal desorption is also included as an odour collection system to further improve the instrument. The PeM provides USB and Multimedia Memory Card support for easy communication with a PC. The instrument weighs 700g and, with dimensions of 110 x 210 x 110 mm, is slightly larger than the commercial Cyranose 320 (produced by Smiths Detection). This novel instrument generates ‘spatio-­temporal’ data and when coupled with an appropriate pattern recognition algorithm, has shown an enhanced ability to discriminate between odours. The instrument successfully discriminates between simple odours (ethanol, ethyl acetate and acetone) and more complex odours (lavender, ylang ylang, cinnamon and lemon grass essential oils). This system can perhaps be seen as a foundation for a new generation of e-noses

Topics: TP, TK
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:3130

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