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Smells like Israel Innovation: Scientists invent artificial nose that detects bacteria, poisons & monitors environment

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‘It is capable of continuous bacterial monitoring, a feat which was deemed elusive until now,’ says Ben-Gurion University research team


In an unusual and fascinating venture, a team of scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) has invented an artificial nose that is able to detect a variety of bacteria. 

The lead researcher on the project Prof. Raz Jelinek explained that the potential applications for the artificial nose are numerous.
“It is capable of continuous bacterial monitoring, a feat which was deemed elusive until now,” he said. “Together with collaborators in the Software and Information Systems Engineering here at Ben-Gurion University, we invented an artificial nose based on unique carbon nanoparticles.” 

These are “carbon dots” that are able to sense multiple types of gas molecules, particularly detecting bacteria or poison, “through the volatile metabolites they emit to the air.” 

The artificial nose is able to detect food quality such as whether the food is spoiled food, while it is also able to identify bacteria in hospitals and public buildings.

Above Image: An illustration of the artificial nose (Photo Credit: Prof. Raz Jelinek)
Featured Image:  Prof. Raz Jelinek (right) and his PhD Student Nitzan Shauloff
(Photo Credit: Dani Machlis/BGU)

According to Jelinek, it can even be used for “disease diagnostic tests through breath, and can possibly speed up the testing of lab samples through its detection process.” 

When it comes to the environment, he said that other uses for the nose could include identifying “good” vs. pathogenic bacteria in the microbiome, identifying poisonous gases, and environmental monitoring as a whole.

Describing how it works, Jelinek, who is also the Vice President for Research & Development at BGU, explained that the artificial nose uses chemical reactions and electrodes to “scent” bacteria. 

“Technically, it records the capacitance changes induced upon binding vapor molecules onto interdigitated electrodes (IDEs) coated with carbon dots exhibiting different polarities, Jelinek pointed out. ”Machine learning can be applied to train the sensor to identify different gas molecules, individually or in mixtures, at high accuracy.”

The artificial nose is patent pending.

Other researchers on the team included: Nitzan Shauloff, Dr. Ahiud Morag, Dr. Seema Singh, and Ravit Malishev of the Department of Chemistry and Prof. Lior Rokach, Chair of the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering.

Their findings were published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Nano-Micro Letters.

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