A multidisciplinary project

The present project proposes a new bioelectronic nose based on olfactory receptors in order to mimic the animal nose. Briefly, the basis of the nanobioplatform will be the olfactory receptors, prepared in the form of nanosomes immobilized onto the nanotransducers. An array of smart nanotransducers will acquire and process electronically the detected odour. Such an easy-to-use nanobioplatform, with user-friendly interface and odorant identification algorithm, will detect and discriminate the odorants.

The development of this intelligent biosensor based on ORs for detection of odorants requires a multidisplinary research combining nano-bio-info sciences and technologies. In this research, advances in biotechnology, chemistry and nano-, bio- , information and cognitive sciences and technologies converge and interact, presenting a great challenge that will be devoted to produce an integrated biolectronic sensor nanoplatform for odour detection.

A multidisciplinary project


Project objectives

The general objective of the Bond Project is to develop an array of smart nanobiosensors based on ORs for the detection of odorant signatures. This proposed intelligent biosensor based on ORs for detection of odorant signatures will offer:

  • Extremely high sensitivity, thus making possible the detection of low concentrations of odorant molecules (below 0.1 ppb)
  • Maximum reliability and capability of detecting odorant volatile molecules of small size, below 300 Da.
  • Very high specificity for a given odorant molecule and, at the same time, capability of detecting a broad range of the volatile odorant chemicals composing an odorant profile or fingerprint.
  • Real-time response, this parameter being mostly dependent upon data processing.
  • Easy-to-use environment, low degree of expertise required to operate such an instrument due to a user-friendly interface.
  • Portable equipment, implemented on a sensor-on-chip platform.
  • Affordable sensor system: low price, including both instrumentation and analysis costs.


A new concept of electronic nose

Current electronic and electrochemical-based nose devices detect and identify odorants but the usefulness and deployment of these products is limited and restricted to some highly specific applications like process monitoring or environmental detection of natural products. These systems have significant limitations concerning sensitivity, reliability and selectivity, and do not meet the full operational capabilities demanded by a large number of potential end users in different areas, such as food safety, diagnosis, security, environment…

A new approach developed in the SPOT-NOSED project (2003-2006), funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies programme within the Fifth Framework Programme, demonstrated the possibility to use olfactory receptors (proteins located at the plasma membrane of olfactory neurons) as a sensing part of electronic noses.

Following this new concept, the Bond Project relies, contrary to previous approaches, on the fantastic analytical properties of the mammalian nose: specificity, sensitivity, identification of mixed signatures and real-time response. Interfacing the proposed nanobiosensors with an electronic and highly-miniaturized apparatus is expected to provide the proposed sensor system with additional advantages when compared to existing chemical sensors. Among these advantages we emphasize (i) portability (even bio-compatible implants), (ii) low cost,(iii) user-friendliness and (iv) on-line monitoring. One of the aims of this project is to replace the currently used physical or chemical sensing elements in electronic noses with ORs that will provide a new platform with the capacity to overcome the existing weaknesses, leading to a new generation of bioelectronic noses devices.

This new biotechnology is currently at the stage of being scaled down and converged with nano and information technologies for integration into a single artificial device. Here, a large number of different olfactory receptors working simultaneously and in a complementary way will allow the fast, reliable and sensitive detection of odorants in an efficient way closely mimicking the animal olfactory sense.


Overall Strategy

In order to ensure the achievement of the project goals, the project will be developed in three main phases.

Phase I. The main objective of this phase is to design the Bioelectronic Olfactory Neuron Device, thus achieving as an output the specifications and Platform structure.

Phase II. The second phase will have as main final objective the development and characterisation of the nanobiosensors. The main partial objectives will be:

  • To develop the technology to identify and produce the ORs sensitive to the identified volatile odorant markers and produce them in the form of nanosomes.
  • To design and fabricate smart nanotransducers for electrochemical detection.
  • To immobilize the nanosomes containing the ORs onto the nanotransducers.
  • To characterize structurally and electrically the nanobiosensors at the nanoscale.
  • To provide a theoretical understanding of the biophysicochemical processes occurring in the sensing action of the OR and at the interface between the environment and the nanobiosensors.

Phase III. The third phase will have as main final objective the development of the bioelectronic olfactory neuron device. Specific objectives to be fulfilled in this phase include:

  • The design of the biosensor platform in a microarray format
  • The design and assembly of electronic instrumentation for signal conditioning, data processing and data acquisition.
  • The development of an odour identification algorithm.
  • The integration of all the previous components plus the nanobiosensors into a single platform
  • To test the validation of the detection and concentration measuring capabilities of the developed biosensor platform.