Artificial nose can sniff out quality

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AN ARTIFICIAL nose that can sniff the difference between white wine and champagne or spot rotten meat as it enters the factory gates is on the way, and could revolutionise the food and drinks industry, writes Susan Watts.

White wine and champagne have characteristic smell 'fingerprints' defined by the amounts of different smell molecules they contain, and can be represented with computer graphics (above).

Each spike around the circle represents one of the artificial nose's 12 sensors, and if the spike pokes outwards there is more of a certain molecule present in the champagne than the wine, if inwards, there is less.

Neotronics, the Hertfordshire company that developed the pounds 20,000 Neotronics Olfactory Sensing Equipment (Nose), claims it can recognise more smells than existing analytical equipment costing twice as much.

In a few years, the device could be diagnosing sick people from the smell of their breath.

'I would be very disappointed if in two years' time I could not pick up the early stages of liver damage on somebody's breath,' George Dodd, the inventor, said yesterday. He is to dedicate the next 10 years of his research to 'body odour imaging' - clinical applications of the smell technology.

Dr Dodd, of Warwick University's Institute of Olfactory Research, hopes to develop a system that can read the smell fingerprint of lung cancer, which is Britain's biggest killer among cancers. Early, non-invasive, diagnosis would be of huge benefit.

He has already developed a system which can detect people with gastritis - a common stomach disorder - by smelling their breath.

(Graphic omitted)