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A Detector that Mimics the Human Nose

Narrator:        This is Science Today. An efficient, handheld device that can ‘sniff' out explosives has been developed by a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, including Yushan Yan of the University of California, Riverside. Yan says that the device has been called an ‘electronic nose' because they're trying to mimic the function of the human nose.

Yan:                When we detect certain things, we don't necessarily require a separation, right? We can say this is the smell of an apple out of everything in the background. So what is happening is, in our nose we don't have a sensor which is designed just for the smell of an apple. In fact we have a certain number of sensors.

Narrator:        Right now, the researchers are focusing on detecting explosives quickly and efficiently in high-traffic areas like airports.

Yan:                The dominant device at the moment - it's very sizable, very big. To a certain extent, it's still intrusive. But if you have a very small device coupled with it, and you might be able to pick up the signature very reliably and very efficiently.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.