eXperiment: Electronic Nose
Primary Objective(s):

System design. Applying chemical physics to solve engineering problems..

Secondary Objective(s):

Introduction to Labview for data acquisition. Introduction to methods of pattern recognition.


Students must use a non-specific chemical sensor array (i.e., electronic nose) to solve a specific problem of industrial importance.

Students begin by selecting a specific application with at least two substances for which a chemical sensor array might be appropriate. Next, they use chemical physics to determine which polymers are appropriate for the four polymer-carbon black sensors and then manufacture the sensor array according to their set of specifications (e.g., sensor thickness). If the chemical sensor array can discriminate between the substances, then the students continue to the training and testing phases; otherwise, the group goes back to the drawing board.

Sounds simple enough, but there's more. Students must complete this process without exceeding a limited research budget. They must also consider safety, ethics and environmental health when selecting materials to manufacture the chemical sensor array.

On the last day of class the sensor array is exposed to a wide range of chemicals to test its robustness to small variations and to determine whether it is insensitive to interfering substances.