#TechTuesday: A human nose made of graphene
Detecting toxic substances is nearly impossible when walking down the street, now Graphene Flagship researchers may have the answer, and you probably already own one – a smartphone!
Pollution and poor air quality are major causes of health issues worldwide, from asthma to lung disease, and high levels of pollutants in the ambient air contribute to approximately 58% of premature deaths in Europe.
Physicists at Graphene Flagship partner the University of Tartu, Estonia, are committed to improving our daily environment, and have developed the Graphene Air Sniffer, a device that works like a human nose. The Air Sniffer has a matrix of four graphene-based miniature sensors, each of which detects a different type of pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide or nitric oxide. By combining these signals, the device notifies smartphone users of potentially harmful pollution levels in the ambient air, so they may choose a safer route.
The Graphene Air Sniffer stands out from other products currently available on the market, offering real-time monitoring and a heightened level of sensitivity which has the capacity to accurately detect very low levels of harmful gases, for example from passing vehicle exhaust emissions, and elevated CO2 levels linked to increased COVID transmission.
In the near future, researchers aim to get one step closer to smartphone integration and commercialisation, by reducing the size of all sensor components, improving endurance, and ensuring low power consumption. As 5G and the Internet of Things become increasingly dominant, these pollution sensors should empower people to make safer choices and live in a cleaner environment.