WKU researchers and Adelphi Technology create ‘electronic sniffer’

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) – Researchers at Western Kentucky University have partnered with Adelphi Technology, a company based in California, to create a portable electronic “sniffer” to accurately detect gases in the air.

Both groups say that the device has a wide array of uses, ranging from agricultural innovation to bomb detection.

The researchers say that the idea began with the concept of bug detection, a procedure that scans a sealed container with high energy particles to find out what is inside the container without opening it. From this, researchers say they asked the question, “Can we chemically sniff the possible threats and identify a molecular signature in the air?”

The current prototype for the device was made possible from a recent Kentucky Small Business Innovation Grant, which makes the device applicable to agricultural purposes.

“Right now, we’ve had interest from USDA and NOAA for food safety, because they’re sniffing, you know, when there’s contaminants in the food, and possibly doing some farm monitoring.” said Dr. Charles Gary, CEO of Adelphi Technology.

The technology behind the device does currently exist, but takes time, resources, and a full chemical lab to access. The researchers hope that by making the device portable, anybody can accurately assess air quality around them and be notified of possible contaminants.

With the focus currently on agriculture, the developers behind the research say that the current Kentucky project is part of a project in partnership with NASA, which focuses on growing fresh vegetables in space.

“Obviously moon and mars exploration is a big thing, but their biggest goal is providing astronauts with fresh fruits and vegetables in space, and in addition to that, produce oxygen in space,” said one researcher on the project. “They want to create an ecosystem that is really close to our normal environment.”

The researchers say that before they are able to test the product in space, they must ensure that it does its desired job on earth, assisting in food safety.

“We’re also working with people working in meat processing, poultry processing plants testing prototypes over a two-year program and kind of funding the program, and I would expect at the end of that we’ll have a product for food safety.” said Gary.

While the researchers say the electronic sniffer has many applications that are yet to be found, they are rapidly approaching the device’s commercial availability, predicting that the first models for food safety could be ready by the end of 2023.


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