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.