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Sniffing out a better chemical sensor
Date:10/29/2008

he surfaces of 16 microheaters, with two copies of each material. Precise control of the individual heating elements allows the scientists to treat each of them as a collection of virtual sensors at 350 temperature increments between 150 to 500 C, increasing the number of sensors to about 5,600. The combination of the sensing films and the ability to vary the temperature gives the device the analytical equivalent of a snoot full of sensory neurons.

Much like people detect and remember many different smells and use that knowledge to generalize about smells they havent encountered before, the electronic nose also needs to be trained to recognize the chemical signatures of different smells before it can deal with unknowns. The great advantage of this system, according to NIST researchers Barani Raman and Steve Semancik, is that you dont need to expose the array to every chemical it could come in contact with in order to recognize and/or classify them. Breaking the identification process down into simple, small, discrete steps using the most information rich data also avoids noisy portions of the sensor response, thereby incorporating robustness against the effects of sensor drift or aging.

The researchers say that they are continuing to work on applications involving rapid identification of chemicals in unknown backgrounds or in a complex cocktail.


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Contact: Mark Esser
mark.esser@nist.gov
301-975-8735
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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