The bloodhound’s capability to track scents over great distances is well-known. Recently, scientists have built a modern-day bloodhound - a robot that can quickly detect odors from sources on the ground, for example, footprints. The robot, described in ACS Sensors, was capable of even reading a word written on the ground using odors as a barcode.
Over the past twenty years, scientists have attempted to develop robots that can compete with the olfactory system of bloodhounds. However, the majority of robots could only sense airborne odors, or they were meticulously slow at performing investigations. Zhongyuan Yang, Fumihiro Sassa and Kenshi Haysashi aimed to build a robot with a high-speed gas sensor that could quickly track unseen odor sources on the ground.
The scientists based their odor sensor on a method known as localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) that measured variations in light absorption by gold nanoparticles upon exposure to a gas. As the robot moved across a surface, a tube placed near the ground suctioned odors into the LSPR sensor. The team demonstrated that the sensor could correctly detect the location of ethanol odor sources placed at various positions along the robot’s route, at a travel speed of 10 cm/second (about 4 inches/second).
Furthermore, the robot could read the word “ODOR” in binary barcode placed on the ground as a series of ethanol marks at various positions. The bloodhound robot has a great prospect as a security robot working in an office or in a multi-robot communication system, the scientists highlight.
The researchers received funding from SECOM Science and Technology Foundation for Research Grants and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science KAKENHI.