Portuguese use “smart gelatin” as electronic nose sensor

A group of Portuguese researchers have used gelatine as a basis for the development of materials that, combined with artificial intelligence tools, can mimic the sense of smell in an electronic nose.

The UCIBIO research group at the Faculty of Technology Sciences of the New University of Lisbon (FCT-NOVA), led by Cecília Roque, demonstrated that “gelatine can be more than food“, in a study published today in the journal Materials Today Bio.

A statement from FCT-NOVA explains that “in smell, volatile compounds, which make up the odours, bind to the olfactory proteins present in the nose. These connections result in electrical signals that are sent to the brain, where standards and the consequent identification of the odor “and states that” the electronic nose is a device that detects gases mimicking the sense of smell and mirroring the biological orchestra of olfactory proteins and the brain computing processes used in the recognition of odours by combining chemical sensors with artificial intelligence “.

Conventional electronic noses “use semiconductor metal materials and synthetic polymers for chemical detection, associated with low selectivity and high carbon footprint,” but the research group led by Cecília Roque introduced the concept of “gels formed by a combination of gelatin and liquid crystals, “such as those found on LCD screens of televisions and mobile phones, resulting in” optical material that is activated by external stimuli such as odours.

By creating an automatic odour sorter based on artificial intelligence algorithms, the published study shows that these gels can distinguish volatile compounds with very similar structures, such as acetone and ethanol,” the researchers said in the statement.

In the presence of volatile compounds, this organization is altered, producing optical signals typical of each odour, such as a fingerprint,” explains Carina Esteves, a lead author of the study.

Gonçalo Santos, another of the main authors, adds that “in order to apply artificial intelligence algorithms to these fingerprints of odours and to construct an automatic classifier, it was first necessary to teach the electronic nose to recognize the signs of each odour. is exposed to an unknown sample, can accurately identify what the odour is.

This is the first proof of an intelligent gas detection system using gelatine based materials. Our study reinforces the importance of simple components such as gelatine and liquid crystals to design intelligent functional materials that respond to external stimuli. exploring the application of gels in the artificial nose, an increasingly relevant area for non-invasive clinical diagnosis, there are many other interesting applications, such as bio-electronics and robotics, “says Cecília Roque.

This research work was developed under the SCENT project, with funding from the European Research Council.

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