VALENCIA, Spain, May 8 (UPI) -- European researchers report they've developed an electronic "nose" so sensitive it can distinguish between the odors emitted by pears and apples.
Scientists at the Polytechnic University of Valencia in Spain and the University of Gavle in Sweden have created an electronic nose with 32 sensors that can identify the odors given off by chopped samples of the fruits.
"The fruit samples are placed in a pre-chamber into which an air flow is injected which reaches the tower with the sensors which are metal oxide semiconductors that detect odorous compounds such as methane or butane," Spanish researcher Jose Pelegri Sebastia said.
The research is part of an effort to develop multisensor systems that increase the capacity to differentiate complex mixtures of volatile substances, the researchers said, and could have applications in a number of fields, Spanish scientific news agency SINC reported Tuesday.
"One example would be the wine making sector," Pelegri said, "where an electronic nose capable of distinguishing the quality or type of grape or recognizing the vintage a wine belongs to would be very useful."
Another use could be in the field of biomedicine.
Some studies have shown trained dogs can detect cancerous tumors, such as lung cancer, by smelling a person's breath, the researchers said.
If an electronic nose can detect which substances the animals recognize, the disease might be diagnosed earlier with a resultant increase in patient survival rates, they said.