The researchers first published their work about the nose late last year in the Elsevier journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics. And, the scientific community remains interested, with nanowerk.com running an item about the technology just this month.
Scientists, Manki Son, Dong-guk Cho, Jong Hyun Lim, Juhun Park, Seunghun Hong, Hwi Jin Koe, Tai Hyun Parka, told that publication, “A smelling device could be very useful for the smell industry, such as perfume, cosmetics, wine and coffee.”
Which industry takes up the application is of less interest to the researchers than the possibility of thoroughly categorizing scents: “We don’t have a system for the classification of smell yet; it all still depends on our human sensory system,” they tell the press.
Adding, “with our bioelectronic device, we can systematically detect and label smells, perhaps coming up with a universal smell code we can use to communicate in the future.”
They intend to develop the bioelectric device further before getting to work in earnest on that task. “Our eventual goal is to develop a real human nose-like bioelectronic nose,” Park tells the press.
“In the human nose, there are about 400 different olfactory receptors. If we could develop our technology to include all of these, we would have a device that could smell anything we can, at lower concentrations.”
For their initial project the team worked with bacteria, specifically those that contaminate water. The idea here is that even when water isn’t dangerous to drink, low levels of bacteria can make it smell unsavory—and undesirable for drinking.
The nose the team built was thought of as a field-test prototype that could sniff out off-putting and hazardous bacteria in water outside a laboratory that had not been pre-treated for testing. Nanowerk.com outlines the project: “Bacteria that contaminate water give off particular smells that are associated with a handful of smell molecules. The new nose-like device can detect these smells at very low concentrations of just 10ng per liter of water. It’s also very sensitive, and can spot a particular smell in a cloud of others.”