Scientists Invent Nose to Smell Bacteria

Biotechnology Building Laboratory at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. (Michael Yaakovson)

Scientists at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said on Sunday that they have invented an artificial nose that is capable of detecting bacteria, a development that could have a wide range of applications, Ynet reported.

“We invented an artificial nose based on unique carbon nanoparticles (“carbon dots”) capable of sensing gas molecules, particularly detecting bacteria through the volatile metabolites they emit into the air,” said lead researcher Professor Raz Jelinek.

The nose “smells” the presence of bacteria through a process of recording the capacitance changes induced upon binding vapor molecules onto interdigitated electrodes (IDEs) coated with carbon dots exhibiting different polarities.

Machine learning can train the sensor to identify different gas molecules, individually or in mixtures, at high accuracy, the research team says.

Among the potential applications are: detecting spoiled food; identifying bacteria in hospitals and public buildings; disease diagnostic tests through breath; speeding up testing of lab samples; identifying “good” vs. pathogenic bacteria in the microbiome; identifying poisonous gases, and environmental monitoring.

Other researchers on the team included: Ph.D. student Nitzan Shauloff, Dr. Ahiud Morag, Dr. Seema Singh, and Ravit Malishev of the Department of Chemistry and Prof. Lior Rokach, Chair of the Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering.