“Sensing Smells”

Speaker details

Wolfgang Knoll, Ph.D.
Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), Vienna, Austria

Lecture details

Friday, May 19, 2017
4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Hitchcock Hall, Room 132
Reception to be held 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., Foege North Lobby


For the sensing of light, e.g., in optical communication, we have extremely powerful devices with the ability to detect even single photons. Similarly, the monitoring of force/pressure is technically no problem, e.g., for sound detection in acoustic communication. However, in the area of chemical communication, e.g. for smell or taste detection on a technical level, we have (nearly) nothing. Despite the fact that the monitoring of chemicals in the environment is among the oldest of our sensory repertoires, we have essentially no technical device that offers the sensitivity and the bandwidth needed to sense and to differentiate between different odors and tastes. Earlier attempts to fill this gap by “artificial noses” failed (with the only notable exception being the “alcohol breath analyser” used by police) mostly because of lack of sufficient sensitivity. This talk will review mechanisms of mammalian and insect smell, and provide insights on how biomimetic approaches can be used to design smell and taste sensors that overcome the sensitivity problems.

About the Robert F. Rushmer Lecture

The annual lecture honors Dr. Robert F. Rushmer, who founded the UW Center for Bioengineering in 1967. An extraordinary pioneer, mentor, and leader, he had a vision to establish a place where many different disciplines work together towards a common goal of providing an improved quality of life for all.

For information or to request disability accommodation contact the Disability Services Office, 206.543.6450 or 206.543-6452 (TTY) or email dso@uw.edu.

For seminar information contact Ms. Shirley Nollette (206) 685-2002 or nolletts@uw.edu.