New landfill device ‘nose’ no limits

An artificial nose developed in Manchester could reduce the odorous impact of landfill sites and remove the need for brave volunteers to sniff samples of air collected from them.

The electronic sensor has been designed by scientists from the University of Manchester to monitor methane emissions and bad smells at landfill sites.

The idea is to provide an early warning system so problems can be addressed quickly and simply as they occur.

Current technology tends to be less sensitive and often only takes a weekly reading, whereas the new device uses an array of sensors to constantly monitor a site.

As things stand, landfill operators often draft in a panel of volunteers to smell air samples as they are often perceived the best judge of what is likely to be offensive to the human nose.

The Mancunian neo-nose maps out the chemical profile of the samples it sucks up before sending the data to a remote computer which can then determine whether or not the levels of various gases have reached an unacceptable level.

“Current methods mean odour and gas levels are only monitored on a weekly basis,” said Professor Krishna Persaud, developer of the device.

“In that time bad odours can build up. What this device offers is the ability to monitor these levels in real time, enabling waste companies to act before levels become unacceptable.

“Ultimately, this device has the potential to create a much healthier environment which will benefit both local communities and waste management companies by alerting them to the build up of bad odours and enabling them to monitor methane levels and ensure they remain at a safe level.”

The device has been successfully tested at the Brookhurst Wood landfill site near Gatwick Airport.

By Sam Bond

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