Not to be sniffed at

While a casual sniff is often all that’s needed to warn you of a gas leak, the human nose is of limited use in an industrial setting.

Indeed, for the evaluation and control of odours and volatile compounds, the chemical, pharmaceutical, and medical sectors – amongst others – have traditionally relied upon expensive, laboratory-based analytical techniques.

However, help could soon be at hand, in the shape of an electronic nose, funded by the European Union and developed by Dr Zulfiqur Ali from Teeside University’ s school of science & technology.

The nose, initially designed to test the shelf life of different foods and help detect possible contamination, houses four gas chambers and six sensors. The sensors classify the gases which are forced through the chambers and then outputs the results to a computer, which uses neural network and fuzzy logic technology to recognise patterns in the results.

The sensors are based on six coated piezoelectric quartz crystals resonating at a frequency of 9.9MHz

The University of Teeside and its partner – The Welding Institute (TWI) – are both extremely keen to hear from companies and individuals with an interest in microsystems, piezoelectricity or sensors in general.