Indian e-nose can detect toxic fumes in three minutes

Indian e-nose can detect toxic fumes in three minutes

Indian scientists have developed the first indigenous “electronic nose” that can sniff out toxic gases potentially harmful to human life, in flat 3 minutes.

The e-nose has been successfully put to use at Mysore Paper Mills, Bhadravathi in Karnataka for almost a year now. Subsequently, two more electronic noses were installed in Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Paper Mill at Karur and International Paper Private Limited in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh.

The artificial nose is designed to get a whiff of the gases released by the pulp and paper industry. It takes just three minutes for the e-nose to detect the presence of foul smelling chemicals and their concentration inside a plant, while an existing method takes 40 minutes for the same job. “Our e-nose costs about Rs 10 lakh while the imported ones cost about Rs 70 lakh apiece. Installing these devices are important for industrial safety,” Sharvari Deshmukh, one of the developers at National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur told Deccan Herald.

NEERI and the Kolkata unit of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing created the e-nose to protect the workers' health. The portable instrument measures odour concentration and intensity, besides identifying individual chemicals causing the foul smell. This has been the first attempt in India to develop such a product using odour sensors that make use of intelligent software to identify odorous molecules. The pulp and paper industry mainly emits four types of gases – hydrogen sulphide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulphide and dimethyl disulphide. Beyond a safe limit, they adversely affect the environment and human health.

The electronic nose uses intelligent algorithm to identify gases and their concentration in the ambient air. “We still have to improve our e-nose to identify low concentration gases (up to 1-5 parts per million),” said R A Pandey, the chief investigator at NEERI. The electronic nose overcomes the limitations of existing analytical tests that are expensive, time-consuming and cannot be used on site continuously. “The system has been deployed at three sites for more than a year for generating data. We are ready for technology transfer,” said Nabarun Bhattacharya, the investigator from CDAC.

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