Smell sensor combines biology with electronics

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“The sensor could detect concentrations on the order of parts per billion,” according to the university. “This is about a thousand times less than the sensitivity of a dog’s nose but it is an impressive achievement nonetheless and has inspired the team to keep innovating.”

The active part is a partnership or two of roughly sausage-shaped receptors that are normally found in the cells of yellow fever mosquitoes – an ‘olfactory receptor’ which can detect a chemical and an ‘olfactory receptor co-receptor’ which has an adjustable ion channel through its length.

When they lie next to each other through the thickness of a membrane, if the olfactory receptor comes in contact with a molecule that it is sensitive to, it triggers the co-receptor to open its ion path briefly, chemically connecting one side of the membrane to the other.


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