Electronic nose sniffs out problems

Wednesday, 14 September, 2005

An Australian-developed electronic nose, developed by former CSIRO/University of New South Wales scientists, now part of E-Nose, can instantly sniff out weak but unpleasant odours and generate an electronic fingerprint of the strength and quality of the smell.

E-Nose has already been sold to two sewage companies and four abattoirs where its special metal oxide sensor array will monitor emissions continuously and in real time. The internet is used to report to a factory's management before the problems reach nuisance levels.

The new generation E-Nose also has multi-million dollar potential for other noxious industries including oil, metal and mineral refiners.

It is about to be trialled as a diagnostic tool by the sheep industry to prevent a range of problems by monitoring the skin odour of live animals. It may also detect minute insecticide particles in meat for export, or detect boar taint - the presence of the male hormone, which affects the taste of pork.

But E-Nose director, Dr Bell is most excited about its potential for early diagnosis of human disease by sniffing the breath of patients. He is working with Prince of Wales Hospital respiratory physician, Dr Paul Thomas to help detect early lung cancer that produces a small open sore in soft lung tissue, not seen by x-ray, but which gives off an odour which might be detectable on the breath, early enough to save the patient's life.

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