Challenges and Solutions for Volatile Sensing Approaches for Environment and Health monitoring

Un. of Manchester, School of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science, Manchester (UK)



Specific detection and measurement of individual volatile chemicals present in complex mixtures has been challenge to scientists for decades. The traditional approach is to use separation techniques such as gas chromatography (GC) coupled to various kinds of detectors such as mass spectrometry (MS), or Ion-mobility spectrometry (IMS), Proton Transfer Reaction (PTR), Selected-ion flow-tube (SIFT), Laser Absorption Spectrometry (LAS), Infrared Spectroscopy (NDIR, FTIR), to identify and quantify chemical species of interest.  While this is feasible in the laboratory, it is difficult to apply to real time measurements in the field. Chemical gas sensor technologies available have not been very selective, but by utilizing these in the form of arrays and applying various kinds of interrogation techniques together with appropriate signal processing as well as pattern recognition approaches a number of solutions are now available that can be applied to practical applications. Environmental monitoring and medical screening and diagnostics have in common the problem of detecting traces of chemical markers present in very complex backgrounds. Recently, the field of organic electronics has attracted increasing interest with consequent growth in both environmental as well as medical applications. These include flexible plastic sensors that can be deployed cheaply to monitor and control changes in an environment. Another focus has been on wearable electronics for sensing and monitoring applications. Electronic smell sensors of interest as they can be integrated into smart instruments such as cell phones for breath analysis, can be embedded into the fabric of clothing to monitor physiological and pathological conditions and can be even implanted into the body for continuous monitoring of specific markers. A brief review will be given of the technologies and approaches currently adopted and this will be developed into new bionic approaches combining the specific binding sites of proteins as receptor elements combined with suitable transducers.


Krishna Persaud, PhD, FRSC, FInstMC, graduated with BSc Hons Biochemistry at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK in 1976, MSc in Molecular Enzymology at the University of Warwick,UK, in 1977 and a PhD specialising in olfactory biochemistry in 1980. He subsequently worked at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, University of Pisa and the Medical College of Virginia extending his knowledge in the Chemical Senses. He was appointed lecturer in Instrumentation and Analytical Science at UMIST, Manchester, UK in 1988, and progressed to his current position of Professor of Chemoreception at the University of Manchester, School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science. He has been involved in research in chemoreception, crossing disciplines from biological aspects of olfaction to sensor arrays, electronics, signal processing and pattern recognition, and commercial development of artificial olfaction technologies. He developed gas sensor arrays for sensing odours based on conducting polymers that became commercialised by Aromascan plc and is currently a director of Multisensor Systems Ltd. He has had a wide number of external activities and is currently Executive secretary and Treasurer of the European Chemoreception Organisation (ECRO), and past President of the International Society for Olfaction and Chemical Sensing (ISOCS). He has received a number of awards that include the Prince of Wales Award for Technological Innovation Certificate 1995, European Space Agency Certificate of Achievement in 1997, Silver Medal Royal Academy of Engineering, 1999, Water Industry Impact Award 2015. He has over two hundred and fifty publications in the field of chemical sensing.