You are on page 1of 3


Electronic/artificial noses are being developed as systems for the automated detection and classification of odors, vapors, and gases. An electronic nose is generally composed of a chemical sensing system (e.g., sensor array or spectrometer) and a pattern recognition system (e.g., artificial neural network). The Electronic Nose (E Nose) is an array of 32 polymer film conductometric sensors; the pattern of response may be deconvoluted to identify contaminants in the environment. An engineering test model of the E Nose was used to monitor the air of the Early Human Test experiment at Johnson Space Center. These are developing for the automated identification of volatile chemicals for environmental and medical applications. In this paper, we briefly describe an electronic nose, show some results from a prototype electronic nose, and discuss applications of electronic noses in the environmental, medical, and food industries.


The two main components of an electronic nose are the sensing system and the automated pattern recognition system. The sensing system can be an array of several different sensing elements (e.g., chemical sensors), where each element measures a different property of the sensed chemical, or it can be a single sensing device (e.g., spectrometer) that produces an array of measurements for each chemical, or it can be a combination. Each chemical vapor presented to the sensor array produces a signature or pattern characteristic of the vapor. By presenting many different chemicals to the sensor array, a database of signatures is built up. This database of labeled signatures is used to train the pattern recognition system. The goal of this training process is to configure the recognition system to produce unique classifications of each chemical so that an automated identification can be implemented. The quantity and

complexity of the data collected by sensors array can make conventional chemical analysis of data in an automated fashion is difficult. One approach to chemical vapor identification is to build an array of sensors, where eachsensor in the array is designed to respond to a specific chemical. With this approach, the number of unique sensors must be at least as great as the number of chemicals being monitored. It is both expensive and difficult to build highly selective chemical sensors.

Artificial neural networks (ANNs), which have been used to analyze complex data and to recognize patterns, are showing promising results in chemical vapor recognition. When an ANN is combined with a sensor array, the number of detectable chemicals is generally greater than the number of sensors. Also, less selective sensors which are generally less expensive can be used with this approach. Once the ANN is trained for chemical vapor recognition, operation consists of propagating the sensor data through the network. Since this is simply a series of vector-matrix multiplications, unknown chemicals can be rapidly identified in

the field.

An electronic nose (e-nose) is a device that identifies the specific components of an odor and analyzes its chemical makeup to identify it. 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 a neural network . Electronic noses have been around for several years but have typically been large and expensive. Current research is focused on making the devices smaller, less expensive, and more sensitive. The smallest version, a nose-on-a-chip is a single computer chip containing both the sensors and the processing components. An odor 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, albeit substituting sensors for the receptors, and transmitting the signal to a program for processing, rather than to the brain. Electronic noses are one example of a growing research area called biomimetics , or biomimicry, which involves human-made applications patterned on natural phenomena. Electronic noses were originally used for quality control applications in the food, beverage and cosmetics industries. Current applications include detection of odors specific to diseases for medical diagnosis, and detection of pollutants and gas leaks for environmental protection.