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Artificial Noses

MIT Engineers have been working on a way to mass produce smell receptors. This opens the door on the possibility of a Artificial Nose that paves the way for a number of opportunities. The sense of smell has been one of the most tantalizing traits of life. However, it has also been one of the hardest to understand. The reason for the sense of smell not being fully understood is the lack ability to make enough receptors and purify them to homogeneity.

Past Use

Although perceived to be modern technology, artificial noses have been around since the 1930's. Miners wear them in order to detect high mercury, carbon monoxide and other dangerous chemical levels and avoid any catastrophes. NASA even invented their own artificial nose for their trips into space. The purpose of NASA's nose was to detect harmful chemicals that could be released into a spaceship's cabin. These odors are able to be smelled by human noses but only at a high concentrated amount. For example, Ammonia becomes dangerous at a concentration of a few parts per million (ppm). However, humans can't smell ammonia until it reaches around 50 ppm.


How Artificial Noses Work

Artificial noses utilize dozens of sensors to measure the numerous types of compounds found in the air. Upon the detection of chemicals and organic compounds, an artificial nose will supply the data recorded to a computer. Based on the amount of each of these chemicals and compounds sensed, the computer provides users with information on the smell.
Medical Advantages

Artificial noses are being utilized by physicians all over the world to detect diseases. "Disease-causing bacteria stink — literally — and the odor released by some of the nastiest microbes has become the basis for a faster and simpler new way to diagnose blood infections and finger the specific microbe, scientists reported here today at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society." What makes artificial noses so beneficial is that they are easy to use, they can detect diseases such as sepsis and cancer before other methods can and are inexpensive. Thus, making them a great fit for developing countries as well as modern ones.


Artificial noses can "identify eight of the most common disease-causing bacteria with almost 99 percent accuracy under clinically relevant conditions." Such a high level of accuracy is extremely important in preventing the misdiagnoses and mistreatment of diseases. When it comes to treating deadly illnesses, time is crucial, thus every mistake is costly. Artificial noses play a huge role in detecting sepsis. "Sepsis, or blood poisoning, is a toxic response to blood-borne infections that kills more than 250,000 people each year in the United States alone. The domestic health-care costs to treat sepsis exceed $20 billion." It is estimated that around thirty percent of people who suffer from sepsis die. However, Artificial noses allow physicians to be aware of Sepsis presence in twenty four hours compared to the seventy two hours it took before utilizing the technology. For that reason, millions of lives have already been saved and will be saved in the future. Studies have also shown that trained dogs can determine whether a patient has cancer or not depending on the smell of his or her breath. Pairing this finding along with the capabilities of artificial noses, the detection of cancer will soon become much quicker and easier.

Benefits
  • Tool for drug and bomb task forces
  • Quality control in manufacturing plants (paint, toys, etc...)
  • Produce better quality water
  • Prevent food-borne illnesses


Impact On Other Artificial Organs

The success of the artificial nose has inspired new research into other artificial body parts. They include artificial hearts, skin and more. One for example is the magnetic tongue. This device is capable of identifying the chemical composition along with sensing the odor and taste of what it processes. Thus, this instrument is going to be of great use for food and medical companies. It can determine the quality of a food company's product before shipping it to suppliers or provide greater analysis of infections in an area such as the mouth. These are only some of the advantages the magnetic tongue has to offer. As more and more research is conducted, the magnetic tongue will become even more resourceful.


Work Cited

NASA
MIT
ACS
DailyMail
WiseGeek
ACS