A bioelectronic nose that mimics the human nose can detect traces of bacteria in water by smelling it, without the need for complex equipment and testing. According to a study published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics the technology works by using the smell receptors in the human nose.
The sensor is simple to use and it can detect tiny amounts of contamination in water, making it more sensitive than existing detection methods. The authors of the study, from Seoul National University, say this could make the technology even more useful in the field.
There are two main problems caused by bacteria and other microbes in water: they can make the water toxic, and make it smell bad. At high concentrations, bacteria can be toxic in drinking water. But at lower levels — virtually undetectable by current culturing techniques — they can cause an “off flavor,” putting people off from drinking it.
The new study shows how technology that mimics the human nose can sniff out low levels of bacteria and other microbes by detecting the off flavor they give off.
“Water that smells bad isn’t necessarily toxic,” said Professor Tai Hyun Park, who has been leading the study. “Imagine you don’t do your laundry; it’s not that toxic but you don’t want to wear it because the smell is bad. With drinking water, if there’s off flavor, even if the water isn’t toxic, you don’t want to drink it. We wanted to develop a way to detect and remove this kind of contamination, so people are happy to drink water.”
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