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Electronic Noses Sniff Success

E-noses will soon be ubiquitous, thanks to printed organic semiconductors

10 min read
Electronic Noses Sniff Success
Mark Hooper

Several hundred years ago, village doctors in rural China diagnosed diabetes by the characteristically sweet smell of a patient's breath. Today hospitals use a battery of blood tests and laboratory analyses to make that same diagnosis, but doctors may soon be sniffing their patients' breath again. This time the doctors will have electronic noses small and cheap enough to carry in their pockets.

This e-nose will be the culmination of decades of work at countless laboratories, where researchers have sought to create a tiny, cheap, automatic sniffer that would let wine bottles monitor the aging of their contents, allow meat packages to flag spoilage, and enable mailboxes to check for bombs. Imagine barroom coasters that double as Breathalyzers, bumper stickers that monitor car emissions. Until now, it's been just so much sci-fi.

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