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December 18, 2016 AT 5:00 am

Explosives detector works 16 times better when it can ‘sniff’ like a dog #Biomimicry

Researchers have looked to one of natures best chemical detectors (A dogs snout nose) to help 3D print a better explosives detector! Via LA Times

Dogs know how to follow their noses — and scientists are now taking the hint, too. Researchers who 3-D printed a model of a dog’s snout have found that high-speed sniffing seriously upgrades the ability of detectors to pick up explosive chemicals like TNT.

The discovery, described in the journal Scientific Reports, could lead to better chemical sensors for explosives, narcotics and even cancer.

Scientists have long looked to the dog’s nose as an olfactory marvel, thought to be on the order of 10,000 to 100,000 times better than our own. Much of that is attributed to the roughly 300 million olfactory receptors in a dog’s nose, and the generous proportion of brain space devoted to decoding odors.

But while that’s a big part of what makes dogs’ sense of smell so spectacular, it’s not the only factor, said study lead author Matthew Staymates, a fluid dynamicist at the National Institute of standards and Technology.

“The dog is generally known as the gold standard for trace chemical detection. And so we were really interested in understanding, what is it about the dog that makes it this amazing chemical detector?” Staymates said. “There’s been a lot of work in the past that focuses on what happens inside the olfactory region of the dog [nose] … but there’s been a limited amount of work on what’s happening outside of the dog’s nose.”

Searching for clues, the scientists 3-D-printed a dog snout modeled from a female Labrador retriever and put it in a schlieren imaging system, a device that uses the way that light moves through fluids of different temperatures and densities to actually watch what was happening to the air flow. They made the nose ‘sniff’ the way a dog would – rapidly inhaling and exhaling about 5 times per second – and watched what happened.

Learn more!


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