Scientists, led by an Indian-origin researcher, have developed a new biosensor which could allow machines to smell more accurately than humans.
Every odour has its own specific pattern which our noses are able to identify.
Using a combination of proteins coupled to transistors, for the first time machines are able to differentiate smells that are mirror images of each other, so called chiral molecules, something that has not been possible before.
The human nose can distinguish between some of these molecules and the different forms of the same molecule of carvone, for example, can smell either like spearmint or caraway. Previous machines would not have been able to distinguish between the two.
The development will allow the creation of a new generation of biosensors with an acute ability to sniff out problems.
These could have many industrial uses such as telling when food has gone off, and they could even be accurate enough to smell how much pollution is in the atmosphere.
Academics from The University of Manchester and the University of Bari in Italy, have created a biosensor that utilises an odourant binding protein.