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Over the last decade research has been conducted to develop technologies that could
detect and recognize odours and flavours. These sensing systems are often called as
electronic noses. An electronic nose is a device intended to detect odours or flavours.
An electronic nose consists of a mechanism for chemical detection, such as an array of
electronic sensors, and a mechanism for pattern recognition, such as multivariate analysis
or neural network. "Electronic sensing" or "e-sensing" technologies have undergone
important developments from a technical and commercial point of view. The stages of the
recognition process are similar to human olfaction and are performed for identification,
comparison, quantification and other applications. These devices have undergone much
development and are now used to fulfil industrial needs.
Scientist Alexander Graham Bell popularised the notion that it was difficult to measure a
smell and said the following:
Did you ever measure a smell? Can you tell whether one smell is just twice strong as
another? Can you measure the difference between one kind of smell and another? It is very
obvious that we have very many different kinds of smells, all the way from the odour of
violets and roses up to asafetida. But until you can measure their likeness and differences,
you can have no science of odour. If you are ambitious to find a new science, measure a
Alexander Graham Bell
An odour is composed of molecules, each of which has a specific size and shape. Each of
these molecules has a correspondingly sized and shaped receptor in the human nose. When
a specific receptor receives a molecule, it sends a signal to the brain and the brain identifies
the smell associated with that particular molecule. Electronic noses based on the biological
model work in a similar manner, substituting sensors for receptors, and transmitting the
signal to a program for processing, rather than to the brain.
Electronic sensing systems or popularly called e-nose is presently being used for quality
control in process and production departments. There are various potential applications in
the field of health sciences, crime prevention and security and environmental monitoring.


Physiological aspects
Before we describe the possibilities of olfactory displays, we should take a glance at the
physiological aspects of smell. How does the nose work and what is its function? Naturally
we can breath, smell and additionally taste with our nose. First of all we are interested in the
anatomy of the nose. Odour consists of many different molecules, for e.g. the aroma of
coffee is made up of 20 various molecules. Nonetheless our nose perceives only 15 odours
which is enough to identify the smell as coffee.
Olfaction or olfactory perception

is the sense of smell. This sense is mediated by specialized
sensory cells of the nasal cavity of vertebrates, which can be considered analogous to
sensory cells of the antennae of invertebrates. In humans, olfaction occurs when odorant
molecules bind to specific sites on the olfactory receptors. These receptors are used to
detect the presence of smell. They come together at what is called the glomerulus. The
glomerulus is a structure that transmits signals to the olfactory bulb (a brain structure located
directly above the nasal cavity and below the frontal lobe).

We notice that we have a direct
connection between our sense of smelling and our brain. Those scent impulses reach the
area of our brain that handles emotions and memories. That explains the link between
smelling and being reminded of something. We percept smell very individually. Every human
perceive a difference between a pleasant and unpleasant odour. The olfactory bulb
consequently processes the odour and can send the impulse to the brain. We notice that we
have a direct connection between our sense of smelling and our brain. Those scent impulses
reach the area of our brain that handles emotions and memories. That explains the link
between smelling and being reminded of something. We percept smell individually. Each
human perceive a difference between a pleasent and un pleasent odour.
Similarities between human nose and the electronic nose
Each and every part of the electronic nose is similar to human nose. The sensing in humans
is done by the olfactory receptors where as sensing is done in electronic nose by the array of
sensors. The sensed signals are sent to the brain for processing instead in electronic nose
the sensed signals are sent to the microprocessors(pattern recognition systems) for analysis
and detection.


Electronic nose system

The odour molecules from the sample are passed through a chemical sensor array. This
array consists of a number of sensors that is capable of detecting different molecules in a
sample. The sensor array generates a specific pattern for each sample and gives the data to
the pattern recognition system. This system using appropriate analysis generates unique ID
of the odour.

Electronic Nose Instrumentation
Gardner and Bartlett dened the electronic nose in its early stages as an instrument which
comprises an array of electronic chemical sensors with partial specicity and an appropriate
pattern-recognition system, capable of recognising simple or complex odours. They also
provided a list of necessary components as follows
1. an aroma delivery system, which transfers the volatile aromatic molecules from the
source material to the sensor array system.
2. a chamber where sensors are housed. This has usually fixed temperature and humidity,
which otherwise would affect the aroma molecules adsorption.
3. an electronic transistor which converts the chemical signal into an electrical signal,
amplifies and conditions it.
4. a digital converter that converts the signal from electrical analog to digital.
5. a computer microprocessor which reads the digital signal and displays the output after
which the statistical analysis for sample classification or recognition is done.
It is inferable from the Gardner-Bartlett definition that for a detection device to be considered
an electronic nose it must contain an intelligent chemical-array sensor system that mimics
the mammalian olfactory system and is used specifically to sense aromatic volatile organic
compounds(VOCs). The implication is that all sensing devices that have only one sensor or
can detect only one compound or aroma (electronic aroma monitors) cannot by definition be
considered electronic noses. Thus, electrochemical cells (ECs) that detect only one specific
gas are not electronic noses according to the Garner-Bartlett definition. The typical complete
sampling time for e-nose analyses is a function of the sensor material, the aroma elements
being analyzed, the operating temperature of the sensor, the ambient humidity, the statistical
method used to analyze the results, and the accuracy of the microprocessor.

Essentially the developed electronic nose consists of head space sampling, sensor array,
and pattern recognition modules, to generate signal pattern that are used for characterizing
Electronic noses include three major parts:
1.A sample delivery system
2. A detection system
3.A computing system

A Sample delivery system The sample delivery system enables the generation of the
headspace (volatile compounds) of a sample, which is the fraction analyzed. The system
then injects this headspace into the detection system of the electronic nose. The sample
delivery system is essential to guarantee constant operating conditions.
A Detection system The detection system, which consists of a sensor set, is the reactive
part of the instrument. When in contact with volatile compounds, the sensors react, which
means they experience a change of electrical properties. Each sensor is sensitive to all
volatile molecules but each in their specific way. Most electronic noses use sensor arrays
that react to volatile compounds on contact. The adsorption of volatile compounds on the
sensor surface causes a physical change of the sensor. A specific response is recorded by
the electronic interface transforming the signal into a digital value
The Computing system The computing system works to combine the responses of all of
the sensors, which represents the input for the data treatment. This part of the instrument
performs global fingerprint analysis and provides results and representations that can be
easily interpreted. . Recorded data from the detection system are then computed based on
statistical models.


All types of sensors exhibit interactions with the gas to be measured so that a series of
physical and/or chemical interactions occurs when volatile compounds ow over the sensor.
A dynamic equilibrium develops as volatile compounds are constantly being adsorbed and
desorbed at the sensor surface.
The ideal sensors to be integrated in an electronic nose should fulll the following criteria
High sensitivity towards chemical compounds, that is, similar to that of the human nose
Low sensitivity towards humidity and temperature;
High selectivity, they must respond to different compounds present in the headspace of
the sample;
High stability;
High reproducibility and reliability;
Short reaction and recovery time;
Robust and durable
Easy calibration
Easily processable data output
Small dimensions
Low power consumption
High safety level
Low manufacturing costs
Most manufacturers are looking for highly selective sensors. In the case of an electronic
nose, every compound present in the gaseous phase should be detected by at least one
sensor. If a new compound is added to a mixture, at least one sensor must detect this
addition. The use of too many sensors leads to an over complex system with a large amount
of unnecessary data.
Various kinds of gas sensors are available
metal oxide semiconductors (MOS)
metal oxide semiconductor eld effect transistors (MOSFET)
conducting organic polymers (CP)
Piezoelectric crystals (BAW, SAW).
breoptic, spectrometry based and potentiometric chemical sensors are used in
latest electronic noses.

Such sensors can be divided into two main classes:
Cold (CP, SAW, BAW).
The former operate at high temperatures and are considered to be less sensitive to moisture
with less carry over from one measurement to another. Therefore, they should offer the best
ratio of drift and lifetime to sensitivity.
Metal oxide semiconductor gas sensors (MOS)
MOS were rst used commercially in the 1960s as household gas alarms in Japan under
the names of Taguchi (the inventor) or Figaro (the companys name). These sensors,
also called oxide or ceramic gas sensors, rely on changes of conductivity induced by the
adsorption of gases and subsequent surface reactions. These sensors are made of a
ceramic former heated by a heating wire and coated by a semiconducting film. These
semiconductor sensors can sense gases by monitoring changes in the conductance
during the interaction of a chemically sensitive material with molecules that need to be
detected in the gas phase.

They are used to detect toxic and flammable gases in domestic and environmental
To shift the selectivity of a metal oxide lm towards different chemical compounds the lm is
doped with noble catalytic metals (e.g. platinum or palladium), or the working temperature is
changed within the range of 50400C. Although the selectivity is also greatly inuenced by
the particle size of the polycrystalline semiconductor, the MOS sensors are usually less
selective than other technologies such as CP, BAW, SAW or MOSFET. MOS sensors are
extremely sensitive to ethanol, which blinds them to any other volatile compound of interest.
Furthermore, they may be poisoned by irreversible binding by compounds such as those of
sulphur or weak acids. Finally, their high operating temperature means that they are
inappropriate in environments containing large amounts of potentially ammable chemicals.


Conducting polymer sensors
Conducting polymer (CP) sensors have been under development for approximately 10 years
and like MOS sensors, rely on changes of resistance by the adsorption of gas. However,
their operating mechanism is more complex. These sensors comprise a substrate (e.g. bre-
glass or silicon), a pair of gold-plated electrodes, and a conducting organic polymer such as
polypyrrole, polyaniline or polythiophene as a sensing element. The polymer lm is deposed
by electrochemical deposition between both electrodes previously xed to the substrate. As
the conducting polymer is grown out of a solution, the deposited lm contains cation sites
balanced by anions from the electrolyte and the solvent residue. The cation sites probably
consist of polar ions or bipolar ions which are small regions of positive charge in the polymer
chain providing mobile holes for electron transport.

When a voltage is passed across the electrodes, a current passes through the conducting
polymer. The addition of volatile compounds to the surface alters the electron ow in the
system and therefore the resistance of the sensor. The volatiles may interact at least with
(i) the polymer itself,
(ii) the counter ion, or
(iii) the solvent.
Therefore, good selectivity in the CP sensors may be achieved by altering one of these
parameters or the electrical growth of the polymer coating. In general, these sensors show
good sensitivities, especially for polar compounds. However, their low operating temperature
(< 50C) makes them extremely sensitive to moisture. Although such sensors are resistant
to poisoning, they have a lifetime of only about 918 months. This short life may be due to
the oxidation of the polymer, or to exposure of the sensor to different chemicals that may
develop contact resistances between the polymer and the electrodes. Unlike MOS sensors,
the CP sensors are not yet widely marketed, and laboratory-scale manufacturing renders
them expensive.


Piezoelectric crystal sensors
Here they are configured as mass change sensing devices. These sensors are made of tiny
discs, usually quartz, lithium niobate (LiNbO3) or lithium tantalate (LiTaO3), coated with
materials such as chromatographic stationary phases, lipids or any non-volatile compounds
that are chemically and thermally stable.
When an alternating
electrical potential is
applied at room
temperature the crystal
vibrates at a very
stable frequency,
dened by its
mechanical properties.
Upon exposure to a
vapour, the coating
adsorbs certain molecules, which increases the mass of the sensing layer and hence
decreases the resonance frequency of the crystal. This change may be monitored and related
to the volatile present.
There are of two types of piezoelectric sensors. They are QCM (Quartz crystal
Microbalance) or Bulk Acoustic Wave (BAW) and Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW).
The crystals may be made to vibrate in a bulk acoustic wave (BAW) or in a surface acoustic
wave (SAW) mode by selecting the appropriate combination of crystal cut and type of
electrode conguaration. BAW and SAW sensors differ in their structure.
BAW are 3-dimensional waves travelling through the crystal, while SAW are 2-dimensional
waves that propagate along the surface of the crystal at a depth of approximately one wave
Since piezoelectric sensors may be coated with an unlimited number of materials, they
present the best selectivity .However, the coating technology is not yet well controlled, which
induces poor batch-to-batch reproducibility. SAW sensors, though limited by the noise
caused by their high operating frequency, are more sensitive than BAW sensors. However,
both sensors require a higher concentration of volatiles to elicit response levels comparable
to other sensor types.
The difculty of integrating BAW and SAW sensors into an electronic nose resides in the
more complex electronics and their high sensitivity to disturbances such as temperature and
humidity uctuations.

Metal oxide semiconductor eld-effect transistor sensors
The hydrogen sensitive PdMOS (palladium metal oxide semiconductor) device was
developed in 1973 by a group of Swedish researchers and reported 2 years later by
Lundstometal. The metal oxide semiconductor eld-effect transistor (MOSFET) sensors rely
on a change of electrostatic potential.
A MOSFET sensor comprises three layers, a silicon semiconductor, a silicon oxide insulator
and a catalytic metal (usually palladium, platinum, iridium or rhodium), also called the gate. A
normal transistor operates by means of three contacts, two allow the current in (source) and
out (drain), and the third acts as the gate contact that regulates the current through the
transistor. In the MOSFET transistor, the gate and drain contacts are shortcuited, giving a
diode mode transistor with convenient electronics for operation, characterized by an IV-

This works on the principle that molecules entering the sensor area will be charged either
positively or negatively, which should have a direct effect on the electric field inside the
MOSFET. Thus, introducing each additional charged particle will directly affect the transistor
in a unique way, producing a change in the MOSFET signal that can then be interpreted by
pattern recognition computer systems. So essentially each detectable molecule will have its
own unique signal for a computer system to interpret.
The selectivity and sensitivity of MOSFET sensors may be inuenced by the operating
temperature (50200C), the composition of the metal gate, and the microstructure of the
catalytic metal.
MOSFET sensors, like MOS sensors, have a relatively low sensitivity to moisture and are
thought to be very robust. However, high levels of manufacturing expertise are necessary to
achieve good quality and reproducibility.

Optical Fibre Sensors

These utilise glass fibres with a thin chemically active material coating on their sides or ends.
A light source at a single frequency is used to interrogate the active materials, which
responds with the change in colour to the presence of VOCs. The active material contains
chemically active fluorescent dyes immobilized in an organic polymer matrix.
Spectrometry Based Sensors
Here a vapour trap is used to concentrate the VOCs and then it being injected into a
spectrometer that generates a spectral response characteristic of the vapour. Then the
efficient signal processing technique can be used for finding out the odorant. Here the
disadvantage is that is the use of highly complex electronic measuring device.
Potentiometric Chemical Sensors
Potentiometric Chemical Sensors are based on the measurement of a potential under no
current flow. The measured potential may then be used to determine the analytical
concentration of some components of the analytic solution. There exist different types of
potentiometric chemical sensors.
An Ion Selective Sensor (ISE) produces a potential which is proportional to the concentration
of an analyse. Making measurements with an ISE is therefore a form of potentiometry. The
most common ISE is the pH electrode, which contains a thin glass membrane that responds
to the H+ concentration in a solution. Ion selective sensors are susceptible to several
interferences. Samples and standards are therefore diluted 1:1 with total ionic strength
adjuster and buffer (TISAB). The instrumentation of an ISE consists of the ion-selective
membrane, an internal reference electrode, an external reference electrode, and a voltmeter.
Different sorts of ion selective membranes exist. Few examples are the glass, the
chalcogenide and the crystal membrane. Research currently focuses on chalcogenide


The computing system works to combine the responses of all of the sensors, which
represents the input for the data treatment. This part of the instrument performs global
fingerprint analysis and provides results and representations that can be easily interpreted.
Moreover, the electronic nose results can be correlated to those obtained from other
techniques. Many of the data interpretation systems are used for the analysis of results.
These systems include multivariate analysis, artificial neural network (ANN), fuzzy logic,
pattern recognition modules, etc

As a first step, an electronic nose needs to be trained with qualified samples so as to build a
database of reference. Then the instrument can recognize new samples by comparing
volatile compounds fingerprint to those contained in its database. Thus they can perform
qualitative or quantitative analysis. This however may also provide a problem as many
odours are made up of multiple different molecules, this may be possibly wrongly interpreted
by the device as it will register them as different compounds, resulting in incorrect or
inaccurate results depending on the primary function of a nose.


In quality control laboratories for
Conformity of raw materials, intermediate and final products
Batch to batch consistency
Detection of contamination, spoilage, adulteration
Origin or vendor selection
Monitoring of storage conditions.

In process and production departments
Managing raw material variability
Comparison with a reference product
Measurement and comparison of the effects of manufacturing process on products
Following-up cleaning in place process efficiency
Scale-up monitoring
Cleaning in place monitoring.

Possible and future applications in the fields of health and security
The detection of dangerous and harmful bacteria, such as software that has been
specifically developed to recognise the smell of the MRSA (Methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus Aureus). It is also able to recognise methicillin susceptible S. aureus
(MSSA) among many other substances. It has been theorised that if carefully placed in
hospital ventilation systems, it could detect and therefore prevent contamination of other
patients or equipment by many highly contagious pathogens.
The detection of lung cancer or other medical conditions by detecting the VOC's that
indicate the medical condition.
The quality control of food products as it could be conveniently placed in food packaging
to clearly indicate when food has started to rot or used in the field to detect bacterial or
insect contamination
Nasal implants could warn of the presence of natural gas, for those who had anosmia or
a weak sense of smell.


Possible and future applications in the field of crime prevention and security
The ability of the electronic nose to detect odourless chemicals makes it ideal for use in
the police force, such as the ability to detect drug odours despite other airborne odours
capable of confusing police dogs
It may also be used as a bomb detection method in airports. Through careful placement
of several or more electronic noses and effective computer systems you could
triangulate the location of bombs to within a few metres of their location in less than a
few seconds.

In environmental monitoring
For identification of volatile organic compounds in air, water and soil samples and
environmental protection.
In space applications

Onboard the space station, astronauts are surrounded by ammonia. It flows through pipes,
carrying heat generated inside the station (by people and electronics) outside to space.
Ammonia helps keep the station habitable. But it's also a poison. And if it leaks, the
astronauts will need to know quickly. Ammonia becomes dangerous at a concentration of a
few parts per million (ppm). Humans, though, can't sense it until it reaches about 50 ppm.
Ammonia is just one of about forty or fifty compounds necessary on the shuttle and space
station, which cannot be allowed to accumulate in a closed environment. And then there's
fire. Before an electrical fire breaks out, increasing heat releases a variety of signature
molecules. Humans can't sense them either until concentrations become high.
Electronic noses can be used to sense these molecules and warn the astronauts.
Various application notes describe analysis in areas such as flavour and fragrance, food and
beverage, packaging, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and perfumes, and chemical companies.
More recently they can also address public concerns in terms of olfactive nuisance. Since
emission rates on a site can be extremely variable for some sources, the electronic nose can
provide a tool to track fluctuations and trends and assess the situation in real time. Real time
modelling will present the current situation, allowing the operator to understand which
periods and conditions are putting the facility at risk. Also, existing commercial systems can
be programmed to have active alerts based on set points (odour concentration modelled at
receptors/alert points or odour concentration at a nose/source) to initiate appropriate actions.


There are a few disadvantages to the e-nose technology which includes the price. The cost
of e-nose ranges from $5000 to $100,000. Another disadvantage has been the delay
between successive tests, the time delay ranging between 2 to 10 minutes during which
time, the sensor is to be washed by a reactivating agent, which is applied to the array so as
to remove the odorant mixture from the surface and bulk of the sensors active material.
It can be used without fall over hours, days, weeks and even months and can even
circumvent problems associated with the use of human panels such as individual variability,
adoption, fatigue mental state and exposure to hazardous material. The e-nose is a compact
device and so it is portable and reliability is very high. It can identify simple molecules which
cannot be accomplished by human nose. It can identify a smell objectively. Due to the
advantages possessed by electronic nose it is important to reduce its cost so that it can be
put to use effectively.