‘Electronic nose’ sniffs out bad landfill odours

A device that remotely monitors bad odours and gases at waste landfill sites has been invented by scientists at the University of Manchester. The device, which works like an electronic nose, could prove a useful solution for waste management companies who encounter problems with methane emissions and air pollution.

Typically, the gases and odours produced by decomposing waste are analysed manually using handheld detectors, and by panels of volunteers asked to smell samples of air. The device differentiates itself from other instruments by claiming to be sensitive enough to monitor low concentrations of these gases and odours on a real-time basis, enabling intervention before unacceptable levels are reached. “This device offers the ability to monitor gas and odour levels in real-time,” says Professor Krishna Persaud, inventor of the device.

The instrument has four sensors that analyse the composition of gases in the air. Air is sucked into the device at regular intervals and then profiled. The chemical profile of the air is then sent in real-time via a built-in GPS modem to a remote computer.

Based on the concentration of various chemicals, the system is able to determine whether gases or odours have reached an unacceptable level. The air is then filtered before being expelled back into the atmosphere. Developed in collaboration with the Silsoe Research Institute, the device has already been successfully tested at the Brookhurst Wood waste landfill site, near Gatwick Airport.

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