Mimicking the human smell sensing mechanism with an artificial nose platform

Biomaterials. 2012 Feb;33(6):1722-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2011.11.044. Epub 2011 Dec 7.


Sensing smell is a highly complex biological process, and characterizing and mimicking the interaction between the olfactory receptor (OR) protein and its ligands is extremely challenging. Herein, we report a highly sensitive and selective human nose-like nanobioelectronic nose (nbe-nose), which responds to gaseous odorants sensitively and selectively, has a signal specificity pattern similar to that in the cellular signal transduction pathway, and maintains an antagonistic behavior similar to the human nose. The human olfaction mechanism was mimicked by using carboxylated polypyrrole nanotubes (CPNTs) functionalized with human OR protein. The nbe-nose was able to detect gaseous odorants at a concentration as low as 0.02 parts-per-trillion (ppt), which was comparable to a highly trained, human expert's nose. The nbe-nose can be used scientifically for smell mechanism studies. It can be also applied to various fields that rely on smell monitoring for industrial and public purposes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biotechnology / methods
  • Cell Line
  • Electrodes
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Equipment Design
  • Gases
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Nanotubes / chemistry
  • Nose / physiology*
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Pathways / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Pyrroles / chemistry
  • Receptors, Odorant / physiology
  • Sensation
  • Signal Transduction
  • Smell / physiology*


  • Gases
  • Ligands
  • Pyrroles
  • Receptors, Odorant