Researchers 3D print model snout and fit it to machine programmed for dog-like quick sniffs instead of long breaths, discovering it is 16 times more sensitive
Struck by the legendary sniffing skills of mans best friend, scientists in the United States fitted a dog-inspired plastic nose to an explosives detector and reported that it worked 16 times better.
With the prosthetic nose, and programmed to take quick sniffs of the air rather a single long breath, the machine was 16 times much more sensitive in detecting molecules in the air, the team reported in the journal Scientific Reports.
By mimicking the way a dog sniffs we can improve the performance of commercial trace vapour detection systems, said study co-author Matthew Staymates, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Nist).
Our findings suggest that the next generation of detection systems may benefit from lessons learned from the canine.
This may improve detection of anything from explosives, narcotics, disease-causing pathogens and perhaps even cancer.
Staymates and a team read up on the workings of the canine nose when the dog is sniffing. The organ exhales and inhales about five times per second to collect odours, which are then analysed by 300m receptor cells.
The team then used a 3D printer to create the outer shell of a plastic nose fashioned after the snout of a Labrador retriever.
The prosthesis was fitted to a commercially available explosives detector, which was also reprogrammed to inhale and exhale in quick succession sniffing in essence, rather than sucking continuously.
With the alterations the machine was 16 times better at detecting odours from a distance of four centimetres (1.6 inches), the team observed.
Though it seemed counterintuitive, breathing out during sniffing actually drew odour-laden air towards the nostrils, the researchers found.
Dogs are widely used in explosives and drug detection, search and rescue operations and more recently also in cancer diagnosis.