In the future, the technology may be used to detect drugs, explosives and various diseases.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University (Israel) have developed a new technology that allows robots to perceive odors using a biological sensor that works like lobster antennae. The study, published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics in early February, explains how the researchers decided to turn to biohybrid sensors, which combine animal biological sensors with electronic components.
Professor Yossi Yovel, one of the co-authors of the study, described the process of creating the sensor. According to Yovel, the scientists made a biological sensor sense various odors while measuring the electrical activity of each one. Next, a “library of odors” was created to distinguish one odor from another. As a result, the scientists determined that the sensitivity of the sensor of his creation “is about 10,000 times higher than that of the devices used today”.
Despite the fact that the sensor has the ability to perceive and distinguish at least eight pure odors and two mixtures of different odorants, the biological olfactory sensors of animals continue to be more effective. “Man-made technologies still cannot compete with millions of years of evolution. One area where we lag especially behind the animal world is olfactory perception,” said Dr Ben Maoz and Professor Amir Ayali, co-authors of the study.
“Nature is much more advanced than us, so we must take advantage of it“, said Dr. Maoz, noting that insects and their characteristics will play an important role in the evolution of electronics.
To demonstrate the olfactory ability of the animals, the scientists also cited the example of the use of dogs in airports to detect drugs and explosives. The study authors hope that, with further refinement, it will be possible to use their technology to search for drugs and explosives, as well as detect various diseases and distinguish good foods from bad. “The sky is the limit” for the potential capabilities of this deviceconcluded Dr. Maoz.