Nav: Home

UBC researchers develop high-level gas detection system

January 23, 2019

A new gas detector, developed by researchers at UBC's Okanagan campus, enables highly accurate odour analysis for so many different applications it has been nicknamed the 'artificial nose.'

Researchers in the School of Engineering have developed a state-of-the-art microfluidic gas detector that can detect small traces of gases quickly and efficiently. It has a number of potential uses including environmental monitoring, food and beverage quality assessments, and biological and chemical analytical systems.

The device, explains Professor Mina Hoorfar, is essentially 'an artificial nose' that can smell any sort of odour including noxious substances like natural gas, ammonia or sewage.

"Our sense of smell is one of the most important abilities humans have," says Hoorfar. "Our nose affects the quality of our lives significantly and helps with the detection of toxic gases in the environment, fire awareness, spoiled food or triggering memories. With this in mind, there has always been interest in developing devices that can mimic human olfaction systems."

The tiny gas detectors, developed in UBC Okanagan's Advanced Thermo-Fluidic Laboratory, consist of 3D-printed parts, which create the microchannel and a metal oxide semiconductor. The detectors can be connected to a sampling chamber or be used in a lab environment.

Doctoral student Mohammad Paknahad, one of the lead researchers in the project, says the tiny detector uses two different channels and each channel has a different coating. During tests, several target gases from different families of volatile organic compounds were used including alcohols, ketones and alkanes. Paknahad says when a sample passes through the detector, the internal coatings direct the gases to the appropriate sensor where it is immediately analyzed.

"The gases interact differently with the channel coating and this is why it is called 'like dissolves like,'" says Paknahad. "Our research demonstrates that these low-cost detectors can be custom-made for different applications while maintaining accuracy and precision."

The technology--comparing two separate gas detectors with channels outfitted with special coatings that act differently when exposed to different gases--provides the user with the ability to adjust the coating based on the desired target gas.

"There are many examples of highly accurate systems," says Hoorfar. "But despite their accuracy, the size and cost of these systems limit their applicability in the detection of volatile organic compounds in numerous applications that require portable and easy-to-use devices. Our devices offer a small, inexpensive and highly-accurate alternative."

"This has the potential of changing the way municipalities and utilities conduct their monitoring," says Hoorfar. "Based on the initial reaction of our municipal partners, we are excited to see what lies ahead."
-end-
The research was published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

University of British Columbia Okanagan campus

Related Food Articles:

Using controlled environment food production to solve food shortages
Before land and labor shortages prompted by the Industrial Revolution forced food production to move away from cities, agriculture was central to urban environments and their planning.
Food as medicine: UTHealth and partners fill prescriptions for food insecurity
The answer to food insecurity could be as simple as a prescription for healthy food from your health care provider and the means to obtain it, particularly in food deserts, said researchers led by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health.
When it comes to food, one size doesn't fit all: world's largest scientific nutrition research project reveals even identical twins have different responses to food
The first results were revealed from the largest ongoing scientific nutrition study of its kind today, led by an international team of leading scientists including researchers from King's College London, Massachusetts General Hospital and nutritional science company ZOE, showing that individual responses to the same foods are unique, even between identical twins.
Researchers warn: junk food could be responsible for the food allergy epidemic
Experts at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition are today presenting the results of a study that show higher levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), found in abundance in junk food, are associated with food allergy in children.
Food freshness sensors could replace 'use-by' dates to cut food waste
Imperial academics have developed low-cost, smartphone-linked, eco-friendly spoilage sensors for meat and fish packaging.
Toward zero hunger: More food or a smarter food system?
When thinking about ways to end global hunger, many scholars focus too narrowly on increasing crop yields while overlooking other critical aspects of the food system.
Meal kits and recipe tastings increase healthy food selections among food pantry clients
Food pantry clients are more likely to select nutrient dense products when they are arranged with all ingredients needed to make a meal.
Survey: Misunderstanding food date labels linked with higher food discards
A new survey examining US consumer attitudes and behaviors related to food date labels found widespread confusion, leading to unnecessary discards, increased waste and food safety risks.
Study suggests Chilean food regulations are changing food perceptions, norms, behaviors
Food regulations targeted at reducing obesity make a positive impact on those most likely to purchase the family's food -- mothers.
Systematic review of food addiction as measured with the Yale Food Addiction Scale
The aim of this paper was to review the clinical significance of food addiction diagnoses made with the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) and to discuss the results in light of the current debate on behavioral addictions.
More Food News and Food Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Accessing Better Health
Essential health care is a right, not a privilege ... or is it? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can give everyone access to a healthier way of life, despite who you are or where you live. Guests include physician Raj Panjabi, former NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett, researcher Michael Hendryx, and neuroscientist Rachel Wurzman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#544 Prosperity Without Growth
The societies we live in are organised around growth, objects, and driving forward a constantly expanding economy as benchmarks of success and prosperity. But this growing consumption at all costs is at odds with our understanding of what our planet can support. How do we lower the environmental impact of economic activity? How do we redefine success and prosperity separate from GDP, which politicians and governments have focused on for decades? We speak with ecological economist Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey, Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Propserity, and author of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab