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Replicating a dog’s incredible sense of smell to detect gases

A team of Chinese researchers may have now accomplished what scientists have been trying to achieve for many years by using graphene-based nanoscrolls to mimic a dog’s incredible sense of smell.

Dogs essentially depend on a heightened sense of smell to interpret the world around them, and are well-known for their ability to track scents. The part of a dog’s brain that is dedicated to sensing smells is around 40 times of that found in humans.

A dog’s nose is lined with millions of tiny capillaries, which make them extremely sensitive to odors. The capillaries cover a large surface area, allowing dogs to accurately detect scents even at very low concentrations.

Researchers have been trying to create a sensitive gas detector that imitates the level of skill found in the olfactory structure of a dog’s nose. Experts previously had some success in using graphene-based nanoscrolls (GNS), which are nanosheets of graphene rolled up in continuous and uniform manner.

GNS have a large surface area, are stable at high temperatures, and are quite resilient. Experts ran into obstacles, however, because the nanostructures are difficult to manufacture, consume a lot of energy, and are not particularly easy to scale up.

Raw graphene that was used in past studies produced some unrolled structures, while modified graphene shriveled up and aggregated.

For the current study, the research team set out to change the graphene with a polymer to create nanoscrolls of higher quality. They added sodium-p-styrenesulfonate to create separate yet uniform structures.

Ultimately, the researchers successfully incorporated the nanoscrolls into a highly selective and sensitive gas sensor. The study authors pointed out that their new modification technique has the potential for large-scale production.

The study is published by the American Chemical Society in the journal Nano.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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