BOFFINS TRAIN FLIES TO SNIFF BOMBS!
A FLY’S sense of smell could be used in new technology to detect drugs and bombs.
Brain boffin Prof Thomas Nowotny, from the University of Sussex, found the “nose” of a fruit fly can identify odours from illicit drugs and explosives almost as accurately as the smell from wine.
The insects are naturally attracted to wine because it smells like their favourite food – fermenting fruit.
The study, published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, brings scientists closer to developing electronic noses – or e-noses – that replicate the olfactory sense of animals.
E-noses will be more sensitive and faster than commercially available products which are typically based on metal-oxide sensors and are very slow compared with a biological nose.
Prof Nowotny said: “Dogs can smell drugs and people have trained bees to detect explosives.
“Here we are looking more for what it is in the nose – which receptors – that allowanimals to do this.
“In looking at fruit flies we have found that unfamiliar odours, such as from explosives, were not only recognised but broadly recognised with the same accuracy as odours more relevant to a fly’s behaviour.
“The long-term goal of this research direction is to recreate animals’ noses for technical applications.”