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
- Kansas Supreme Court decision hinges on Lawrence officers' sense of smell on December 8, 2018 at 5:44 pm
"From 30 feet away we're supposed to believe she can smell raw marijuana ... about the ability of people to evaluate raw marijuana odors, Beier said. "How much raw marijuana must be present in order f... […]
- Kansas Supreme Court says officers detecting smell of raw marijuana had probable cause to search Douglas County home on December 7, 2018 at 2:54 pm
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) The smell of raw marijuana ... door while questioning him about another matter. Police told the people inside the apartment to leave, and they applied for a search warrant. […]
- Strange smell disgusts families - and nobody knows what it is on December 5, 2018 at 9:13 pm
The smell was detected all over Runcorn including in Hallward park ... The ECHO was granted a rare window to the local swinging community and spoke to the people inside it about couple swapping, fetis... […]
- Can Dogs Help Detect Cancer In People? on December 5, 2018 at 12:40 am
While they are often used for the detection of bombs and drugs, there have also been cases where dogs have been able to smell the presence of cancer in people. Stephanie Herfel, 52, recently thanked h... […]
- Ruidoso Downs Deploys Drug-Detecting Dog on December 4, 2018 at 5:47 pm
"We've got a dog that can smell clenbuterol. We've got a dog that can detect albuterol. We put that dog on the stable ... "We're always going to be chasing people who come up with new and more sophist... […]
- Sweet Smell on November 30, 2018 at 10:11 am
We rely on our sense of smell to make us aware of smoke in order to detect fire, to alert us to natural gas leaks ... to electrically stimulate the auditory nerve to restore hearing in people with pro... […]
- New study finds link between smell and obesity on November 19, 2018 at 8:59 am
“We found obese people’s ability to detect and discriminate smell was not as efficient as slim people. This can result in obese people having a higher chance of making poor food choices because they w... […]
- Bioelectronic 'nose' can detect food spoilage by sensing the smell of death on December 5, 2017 at 4:00 pm
As reported in ACS Nano, researchers have developed a bioelectronic "nose" that can specifically detect a key decay compound at low levels, enabling people to potentially ... When food begins to rot, ... […]
- The Curious Ability to Detect Disease by Smell on October 13, 2016 at 4:59 pm
If some people can do such an astounding job of identifying disease based on smell, just think what canines can do. A dog's sense of smell could be as much as 100,000 times more acute than yours or mi... […]
via Bing News