16 May 2013 - by -
For winemakers (and wine drinkers), a keen sense of smell is essential.
Without smell, one can taste little. Now researchers have devised what
they call an "electronic nose" that they say detects fruit odors more
effectively than the human sense of smell and could someday be used in
the winemaking industry.
Spanish and Swedish engineers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain and Sweden's University of Gävle have created an electronic nose with 32 sensors that can distinguish pears from apples, which contain similar chemical compounds called esters. The researchers said the technology could eventually be used to distinguish the quality or type of grape or recognize a wine's vintage.
Their setup bears no resemblance to an actual nose, rather it is a desktop apparatus connected to a computer.
"The fruit samples are placed in a pre-chamber into which an air flow is injected which reaches the tower with the sensors, which are metal oxide semiconductors that detect odorous compounds such as methane or butane," José Pelegrí Sebastiá, co-author of the paper, said in a statement.
Software is then used to gather and analyze the real-time data. The results can then be viewed on a 3-D graph to compare their scores.
This study, published in the Sensors and Actuators A journal, is the starting point for further research to develop multisensor systems that will allow the device to differentiate more complex mixtures.
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