Nagpur based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) of Department of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India have jointly developed an ‘Electronic Nose’ for environmental monitoring that can help sniff out a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and odorants at a pulp and paper mill industry with a prime objective to protect the health of thousands of workers working in this industry. This portable device measures odour concentration and odour intensity.
This has been the first attempt in India to develop such a product using odour sensors that make use of intelligent software to identify odorous molecules. It is also possible to train the software by feeding information based on observation of experts.
The pulp and paper industry emits a variety of gases, namely, hydrogen sulphide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulphide, and dimethyl disulphide all of which beyond a certain concentrations may adversely affect the environment and human health, This newly developed Electronic Nose helps in continuous monitoring of these gases, overcoming all limitations of the available analytical instruments that are not only expensive and time-consuming. The Electronic Nose can easily be operated at a pulp and paper mill industry and is currently functioning successfully at The Mysore Paper Mills Limited, Bhadravathi, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Paper Mill. Besides, it also establishes a correlation between sensory and analytical measurements for the sulphurous odorants generated from pulp and paper industries, tanneries and distilleries.
The Electronic Nose uses an array of sensors that function on the principle similar to that of human olfaction. The sensor array generates a pattern based on the type of aroma. The patterns obtained are trained to help interpret and distinguish amongst various odors and odorants as well as to recognize new patterns using advanced mathematical techniques, such as pattern recognition algorithms, principal component analysis, discriminant function analysis, cluster analysis, and artificial neural networks.
The researchers are currently working on the application of Electronic Nose to monitor gas emissions from any source, be it an industry or leakage of petroleum pipes going through fields or farms.