Plume-tracking robots: a new application of chemical sensors

Biol Bull. 2001 Apr;200(2):222-6. doi: 10.2307/1543320.


Many animals have the ability to search for odor sources by tracking their plumes. Some of the key features of this search behavior have been successfully transferred to robot platforms, although the capabilities of animals are still beyond the current level of sensor technologies. The examples described in this paper are (1) incorporating into a wheeled robot the upwind surges and casting used by moths in tracking pheromone plumes, (2) extracting useful information from the response patterns of a chemical sensor array patterned after the spatially distributed chemoreceptors of some animals, and (3) mimicking the fanning behavior of silkworm moths to enhance the reception of chemical signals by drawing molecules from one direction. The achievements so far and current efforts are reviewed to illustrate the steps to be taken toward future development of this technology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Receptors, Odorant / physiology*
  • Robotics*
  • Stimulation, Chemical


  • Receptors, Odorant