TU Dresden scientists use electronic noses

image: Smellodi Project
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Credit: Antonie Bierling, TUD

In April 2022, the EU-funded project “Smart Electronic Olfaction for Body Odor Diagnostics” – SMELLODI for short – started with the kick-off meeting. The aim of the seven partners from Germany, Israel and Finland is to develop intelligent electronic sensor systems capable of distinguishing healthy body odors from those altered by disease and transmitting them digitally. Over a period of three years and with funding of nearly 3 million euros, the technology developed should pave the way for the digitization of the sense of smell.

Electronic noses can also help people in everyday life, as body odor plays a subtle but crucial role in many social situations. They influence our attraction to our partner, create a sense of family belonging and allow us to draw conclusions about the feelings or illnesses of our fellow human beings. Therefore, the inability to perceive one’s own body odor and the body odor of others is described as one of the most severe impairments for people with olfactory disorders.

The technology envisioned in Smellodi therefore has the potential to become a rapid, immediate and non-invasive diagnostic tool. With the advent of inexpensive, environmentally friendly and biocompatible sensor systems, body odor health monitoring can transform laborious or painful procedures that currently can only be performed in dedicated facilities for this purpose into a technology that individuals can use anywhere, anytime. An electronic olfactory device that responds to changes in body odor can be used to facilitate implants and assistive devices for patients with olfactory disorders and improve their quality of life.

Besides, there are many other applications for the technologies developed in Smellodi. In the future, an electronic sense of smell could also shape the next-generation smart home (for example, with refrigerators that monitor food quality), improve industrial processes (for example, through the use of robots that detect production plant malfunctions) and facilitate safety and environmental monitoring (e.g. by measuring ammonia in the air).

Smellodi is one of two projects coordinated at the Technical University of Dresden that prevailed against major competition in the Horizon Europe EIC Pathfinder 2021 open call and will now be funded by the EU. At TU Dresden, the research group led by Professor Gianaurelio Cuniberti from the Chair of Materials Science and Nanotechnology and the Interdisciplinary Center for Smell and Taste led by Professor Thomas Hummel are involved in the project. The consortium also includes the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from Israel, the University of Tampere from Finland and the Dresden-based startup SmartNanotubes Technologies GmbH.

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