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Odor Detection Platform

Low power, low cost, programmable sensor array which can simultaneously sense a large variety of volatile analytes in the environment.

Published: 27th April 2020
Odor Detection Platform
Header image provided by the University of Manitoba


The sense of smell provides very useful information to animals by helping to analyse, distinguish or identify numerous odorants. The approach towards development of artificial olfactory systems generally resembles their biological counterparts where the olfactory receptors react to chemical stimuli of the odorant and generate signals for the information to be perceived by the brain. To develop an artificial olfaction system, capable of replicating mammalian olfaction abilities, sensors capable of detecting chemical analytes need to be developed. Research in chemistry has shown promise and potential to develop advanced vapour sensitive materials, taking these devices closer to an artificial olfactory sensor platform that mimics its biological equivalent.

Technology Overview

Researchers at the University of Manitoba have developed an artificial olfactory platform that uses commercially available, silicon-based floating gate devices functionalized through selective, electrochemical polymer deposition to produce “programmable” olfactory sensor arrays. 

This work has been successful in developing sensors and circuitry for sensor array systems where a variety of sensing polymers can be deposited selectively via electrochemistry. This design enables the development of a complex sensing array containing a variety of polymers, making it sensitive to multiple analytes simultaneously. 

The silicon “chips” are designed such that any electrochemically deposited polymer may be used, making the sensor array “effectively programmable” for any volatile analytes. The current design includes 4x4 and 8x8 arrays. However, this can be expanded to have 1000s or even 1,000,000s of array elements; size and the level of integration are the only limits to the number of sensors available on a given device.

Feasibility and proof‑of‑concept studies have produced sensors functionalized with different polymers exposed to a number of test analyte compounds (including acetone, ethanol, methanol, ammonium hydroxide, toluene, isopropanol alcohol, acetic acid, petrol and water). 

Publication: Dubey, M. Freund and D. A. Buchanan, “A dual gate MOS-based olfactory system functionalized using conducting polymers,” 2019 IEEE SENSORS, Montreal, QC, Canada, 2019, pp. 1-4.

Figure 1


This sensor platform can be fabricated using the simplest of CMOS technologies, making it relatively inexpensive for mass production. The use of CMOS technology brings it’s inherent advantages like smaller size and lower power consumption. The sensor array could contain a multitude of different detection polymers, making the device completely “programmable. This makes the sensor array system extremely flexible and applicable to any industries where the detection of volatile analytes is required.


There are numerous uses for this platform technology. The system can be programed to detect odours or “analytes” for detection of chemical leaks, quality control in food processing, medical diagnosis and testing, fabrication and manufacture of commercial and industrial goods, pharmaceutical production, testing or evaluating any odorant or analyte in any medium (e.g., fuel, oil, wine, whiskey solvents), and other applications. This platform would be highly desirable in industries and applications such as the chemical and petrochemical sectors, food, fragrance, medical, automotive, military, environmental, and health and safety.


The University is actively seeking a partner to move this technology to market, through either licensing, collaborations or through a sponsored research program to expand the library of analyte‑specific electrochemical polymers.

The University also welcomes interactions with any investor or entrepreneur interested in licensing the technology into a start‑up.

IP Status
  • Provisional patent
  • Patent application submitted
  • Development partner
  • Commercial partner
  • Licensing
  • University spin out