ETH Zurich scientists have developed the smallest and cheapest ever equipment for detecting people by smell. It could be used in the search for people buried by an earthquake or avalanche.
Trained rescue dogs are still the best disaster workers – their sensitive noses help them to track down people buried by earthquakes or avalanches. Like all living creatures, however, dogs need to take breaks every now and again. They are also often not immediately available in disaster areas, and dog teams have to travel from further afield.
A new measuring device from researchers at ETH Zurich led by Sotiris Pratsinis, Professor of Process Engineering, however, is always ready for use. The scientists had previously developed small and extremely sensitive gas sensors for acetone, ammonia, and isoprene – all metabolic products that we emit in low concentrations via our breath or skin. The researchers have now combined these sensors in a device with two commercial sensors for CO2 and moisture.
As shown by laboratory tests in collaboration with Austrian and Cypriot scientists, this sensor combination can be quite useful when searching for entrapped people. The researchers used a test chamber at the University of Innsbruck’s Institute for Breath Research in Dornbirn as an entrapment simulator. Volunteers each remained in this chamber for two hours.
“The combination of sensors for various chemical compounds is important, because the individual substances could come from sources other than humans. CO2, for example, could come from either a buried person or a fire source,” explains Andreas Güntner, a postdoc in Pratsinis’ group and lead author of the study, published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. The combination of sensors provides the scientists with reliable indicators of the presence of people.
Suitable for inaccessible areas
The researchers also showed that there are differences between the compounds emitted via our breath and skin. “Acetone and isoprene are typical substances that we mostly breathe out. Ammonia, however, is usually emitted through the skin,” explains ETH professor Pratsinis. In the experiments in the entrapment simulator, the participants wore a breathing mask. In the first part of the experiment, the exhaled air was channelled directly out of the chamber; in the second part, it remained inside. This allowed the scientists to create separate breath and skin emission profiles.
The ETH scientists’ gas sensors are the size of a small computer chip. “They are about as sensitive as most ion mobility spectrometers, which cost thousands of Swiss francs and are the size of a suitcase,” says Pratsinis. “Our easy-to-handle sensor combination is by far the smallest and cheapest device that is sufficiently sensitive to detect entrapped people. In a next step, we would like to test it during real conditions, to see whether it is suited for use in searches after earthquakes or avalanches.”
While electronic devices are already in use during searches after earthquakes, these work with microphones and cameras. These only help to locate entrapped people who are capable of making themselves heard or are visible beneath ruins. The ETH scientists’ idea is to complement these resources with the chemical sensors. They are currently looking for industry partners or investors to support the construction of a prototype. Drones and robots could also be equipped with the gas sensors, allowing difficult-to-reach or inaccessible areas to also be searched. Further potential applications could include detecting stowaways and exposing human trafficking
The Latest on: Detecting people by smell
via Google News
The Latest on: Detecting people by smell
- City treating water for unpleasant taste and odor caused by algaeon July 1, 2019 at 7:57 am
The city has increased treatment to eliminate as much of the smell and taste ... to the release. People have different levels of sensitivity to geosmin, with some able to detect geosmin at very ... […]
- Mysterious smell in Pasir Gudang worsens at night - Residentson June 29, 2019 at 7:00 am
"Actually, we had detected the smell even during the Sungai Kim Kim pollution incident but the stench has become a nuisance as more and more people are experiencing vomiting, nausea, dizziness and so ... […]
- Smell is a gateway to one’s memorieson June 28, 2019 at 5:14 am
And yes, I have literally been assigned to the task of detecting the spot where ... When I tell people that I can smell words too, they find it hilarious! When you throw the verb “fall ... […]
- Study: Highly-trained beagles can detect lung cancer with 97% accuracyon June 27, 2019 at 11:50 am
People reported.Beagles specifically were chosen because of the breed’s strong sense of smell, which is at least 10,000 times stronger than humans, YourErie.com reported.Researchers at the school have ... […]
- 12 diseases doctors can actually detect through smellon May 14, 2019 at 12:36 am
Researchers are developing ways to detect the scent of disease ... these are the common illnesses that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. People with diabetes can have a fruity smell to their ... […]
- A New Way to Detect Parkinson’s—by Smellon April 10, 2019 at 7:05 am
But smell tests are not common in modern medicine—when’s the ... However, with samples from just over 60 people, the current study is limited by sample size.The next steps are to study the sebum of ... […]
- Parkinson's smell test explained by scienceon March 19, 2019 at 5:39 pm
was told he had Parkinson's at the age of 45 but Joy said she detected the unusual musky smell about a decade earlier. The retired nurse only linked the odour to the disease after meeting people with ... […]
- 12 Diseases Doctors Can Actually Detect Through Smellon May 18, 2018 at 11:21 am
Researchers are developing ways to detect the scent of disease ... These are the shocking diseases that eye doctors find first. People with diabetes can have a fruity smell to their breath, Dr. Hirsch ... […]
- If Dogs Can Smell Cancer, Why Don't They Screen People?on December 27, 2017 at 7:03 am
Dogs can be trained to be cancer-sniffing wizards, using their sensitive noses to detect cancerous fumes wafting from diseased cells. This sniffing is noninvasive and could help diagnose countless ... […]
via Bing News