Local News

A Sniff of Things to Come

Posted June 16, 1997

— Some Triangle researchers may have the solution to a problem that really stinks.

As people get closer to hog farms, and the smell of hog farms gets closer to people, who could fairly monitor the odor? The answer could be under your nose -- the mechanical nose, that is.

A team of researchers from N.C. State and Duke University are trying to perfect the mechanical nose. The human nose is not an objective judge of scent, according to researcher Ricardo Gutierrez.

The machine compares new smells to everyday smells. WRAL-TV5's Mark Roberts volunteered his breath for analysis in the mechanical nose. The machine processed it, and the computer spit out the result -- Mark's breath smells like vanilla.

The mechanical nose could have a big impact on hog farms. If a mechanical standard can be devised to monitor odor down on the farm, the state can then regulate it. That helps everyone, according to N.C. State's Dr. Troy Nagle.

The mechanical nose could also be used to check food freshness, detect chemicals, or even to grade wine and liquor.

Don't hold your breath, though. The researchers say that they are at least two years away from a working model of the mechanical nose.

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