Electronic nose made in Leuven can detect harmful gasses


Scientists at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) have developed an electronic nose that is able to detect CO2 and chemical weapons using electronic sensors. These are composed of a new category of materials, the so-called MOFs or “Metal-Organic-Frameworks”.

By using electronic sensors the electronic nose from Leuven can detect harmful gasses ranging from pesticides to chemical weapons. The sensors therefore have to be able to not only smell the correct molecules but also in low concentrations. Up to now this was impossible, however the KU Leuven succeeded in doing just that by inventing the MOFs.

These MOFs can best be compared with the microscopic sponges that absorb specific gasses. Moreover this new category of materials is easily combined with electronic appliances since the MOFs are attached to microchips like a membrane.

This specific application of the electronic nose has important consequences.  The American army is now able to detect phosphates that are present in the lethal nerve gas sarin. Furthermore diseases like lung cancer and multiple sclerosis can be detected early through the breath.

The principle of the electronic nose has had several important applications for a while now. In the case of breathalyser tests, a test that is very familiar to any seasoned driver, the amount of ethanol in the breath can be detected with the aid of the e-nose. What’s more, some Chinese phones are equipped with a nose that can detect the CO2 level in a specific area.