Bloodhound Robot Tracks Ground Scents
Jeffrey Heimgartner posted on June 28, 2018 |

According to the American Kennel Club’s description of a bloodhound, “the world famous ‘Sleuth Hound’ does one thing better than any creature on earth: find people who are lost or hiding.” While these agile creatures are experts at tracking different scents for long distances and finding people or their trail—even those who have been missing for days—they do have physical limitations when it comes to dangerous environments.

In this age of technology, it only seems logical that a team of researchers would create a robotic bloodhound. Researchers from Kyushu University in Japan focused their design on developing a robot that could rapidly detect multiple odors on the ground, such as from a chemical or human footprint. Previous olfactory robots have only been able to detect odors in the air and were quite slow in doing so.

Researchers Zhongyuan Yang, Fumihiro Sassa and Kenshi Haysashi based their odor sensor on a technique for chemical and biological sensing, known as localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR). According to ScienceDirect, LSPR is a collective oscillation of conduction band electrons in metal nanoparticles excited by the electromagnetic of incident light, which is ideal for sensing applications. After gas exposure, the robot measures changes in light absorption by gold nanoparticles. In essence, the robot “smells” and tracks a scent.

Localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) measures changes in light absorption by gold nanoparticles upon exposure to a gas. (Image courtesy of American Chemical Society.)
Localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) measures changes in light absorption by gold nanoparticles upon exposure to a gas. (Image courtesy of American Chemical Society.)

A tube close to the ground suctions odors into the robot’s LSPR sensor as it moves across a surface. The team’s findings showed that the sensor correctly detected the locations of ethanol in various places along the robot’s path as it traveled at a rate of about 4in per second. Additionally, the robot read the word “odor” in a binary barcode deposited on the ground as it traveled.

While this robot may not replace an actual bloodhound, according to the researchers, it does have the potential to be a great tool in sensing chemical spills, and could also be used as part of a multi-robot communication system or on a security team. Regardless, it represents a new step in the development of odor mapping and pheromone tracing.

Interested in more robotic innovations? Check out A Future with Motorless Robots: New Actuating Material Allows Robots to Move When Exposed to Light and Living Muscles Integrated into Robotic Skeleton.


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