Bioelectronic nose and its application to smell visualization

Hwi Jin Ko, Tai Hyun Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


There have been many trials to visualize smell using various techniques in order to objectively express the smell because information obtained from the sense of smell in human is very subjective. So far, well-trained experts such as a perfumer, complex and large-scale equipment such as GC-MS, and an electronic nose have played major roles in objectively detecting and recognizing odors. Recently, an optoelectronic nose was developed to achieve this purpose, but some limitations regarding the sensitivity and the number of smells that can be visualized still persist. Since the elucidation of the olfactory mechanism, numerous researches have been accomplished for the development of a sensing device by mimicking human olfactory system. Engineered olfactory cells were constructed to mimic the human olfactory system, and the use of engineered olfactory cells for smell visualization has been attempted with the use of various methods such as calcium imaging, CRE reporter assay, BRET, and membrane potential assay; however, it is not easy to consistently control the condition of cells and it is impossible to detect low odorant concentration. Recently, the bioelectronic nose was developed, and much improved along with the improvement of nano-biotechnology. The bioelectronic nose consists of the following two parts: primary transducer and secondary transducer. Biological materials as a primary transducer improved the selectivity of the sensor, and nanomaterials as a secondary transducer increased the sensitivity. Especially, the bioelectronic noses using various nanomaterials combined with human olfactory receptors or nanovesicles derived from engineered olfactory cells have a potential which can detect almost all of the smells recognized by human because an engineered olfactory cell might be able to express any human olfactory receptor as well as can mimic human olfactory system. Therefore, bioelectronic nose will be a potent tool for smell visualization, but only if two technologies are completed. First, a multi-channel array-sensing system has to be applied for the integration of all of the olfactory receptors into a single chip for mimicking the performance of human nose. Second, the processing technique of the multi-channel system signals should be simultaneously established with the conversion of the signals to visual images. With the use of this latest sensing technology, the realization of a proper smell-visualization technology is expected in the near future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalJournal of Biological Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 13 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning (No. 2015065103, 20110031870).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author(s).


  • Bioelectronic nose
  • Engineered olfactory cells
  • Nano-biotechnology
  • Nanovesicles
  • Odorant
  • Olfactory receptor
  • Optoelectronic nose
  • Smell visualization


Dive into the research topics of 'Bioelectronic nose and its application to smell visualization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this