Robot with biosensor. Image, Video Credit: Tel Aviv University (TAUVOD)

Technology Israel27. January 2023

Sniffing Device: Combine Nature with Tech, and the Sky’s the Limit!

A team of scientists affiliated with Tel Aviv University in Israel has developed a biohybrid sensing device that combines electronics and the olfactory powers of the desert locust, an insect equipped with a highly sensitive antenna.

“Nature is much more advanced than we are, so we should use it,” states study author Dr. Ben Maoz. “The principle we have demonstrated can be used and applied to other senses, such as sight and touch. The sky is the limit.”

The desert locust – or Schistocerca gregaria – has an antenna that contains more than 50,000 olfactory receptor neurons. Once placed in a purpose-built antenna holder filled with conductive gel, the antenna distinguished electrical signals as a response of the olfactory receptor neurons. Those electrical signals were recorded and then put in a ‘library’ of smells. Combined with artificial intelligence and electroantennogram technology, the antenna was able to differentiate eight different pure odors and two mixtures. According to the team’s estimate, the biohybrid sensor is 10,000 times more sensitive than existing electronic-only devices.


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