SNIFFER (A bio-mimicry enabled artificial sniffer)

Dogs are known for their incredible ability to detect odours. This makes them precious assets for a broad variety of security applications. However, dogs can only be trained to a limited set of applications, get tired quickly and for many border control applications are poorly accepted by the public. This has created an increasing drive to develop artificial sniffers able to replace or complement dogs and cover a broader range of applications.

Many technological approaches have been tried out but without a resounding success to-date. This can be explained by the complexity of the problem at hand:

  • Sensitivity / Selectivity: the need to extract a few molecules from a larger set of molecules

  • Environmental complexity: the often challenging “odorant” background

  • Moving targets: the challenge of detecting odours from moving targets

  • Practicality: the cost and lack of portability of the technologies employed

  • Usability: the often need for the intervention of especially trained staff for the use of the technologies employed.

Current approaches to "artificial sniffing" are constrained in terms of applicability and require extensive training for each new odour. Therefore most of the current efforts aim at integrating complementary technologies, which makes it difficult to propose upgradable inexpensive devices.

The SNIFFER project proposes a very different concept offering a comprehensive one-stop shop solution to this need. The key idea is to couple selective binding elements from biological systems to highly sensitive diamond sensor technologies. SNIFFER addresses a broad range of border security challenges by delivering an innovative set of highly effective, flexible, low-cost and portable solutions, integrating, adapting and improving advanced sensor technologies, thereby leveraging and complementing the capabilities of dogs.

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