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'Artificial snot' enhances electronic nose

Nothing to sniff at

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Researchers at the University of Warwick and Leicester University have used what they refer to as "artificial snot" (nasal mucus) to significantly boost the performance of electronic noses.

Electronic noses are used to discern gases and odours and have been around for a few years already.

The Warwick and Leicester researchers placed a 10-micron-thick layer of a polymer normally used to separate gases on the sensors within their electronic nose. They then tested it on a range of compounds.

In The Journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, the team reports that when an electronic nose's sensors are coated with a mix of polymers that mimic the action of mucus in the natural nose, its performance is significantly improved.

Of course, it still can't beat the human honker. The natural nose contains over 100 million specialised receptors or sensors which act together in complex ways to identify and distinguish the molecules they encounter.

Electronic noses, used in a number of commercial settings, use the same method but often have less than 50 sensors. ®

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