smellodi’s vision

In our vision of smart electronic olfaction, the combination of innovative eNose technology and human perception enables a radically new technology for the electronic recognition and interpretation of odors, their digitization, and transmission for medical diagnostics and smart living.

Q & A

In general, body odor (or any odor, for that matter) consists of volatile organic compounds, which are essentially volatile molecules. It can be assumed that hundreds of such substances can be detected in body odor, and the composition depends on a variety of factors. In a meta-study, Drabińska et al. (2021) listed over 2500 molecules found in the human volatilome in various studies. Among these, approximately 1500 were detected in breath, ~600 in sweat (skin), and ~440 in urine. The structures of these molecules vary significantly, but they primarily contain carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur (along with hydrogen accordingly). It is important to note, however, that depending on the study, „foreign“ molecules may also be reported, such as compounds applied through soap or perfume.

Reference: Drabińska, N., Flynn, C., Ratcliffe, N. M., Belluomo, I., Myridakis, A., Gould, O., Fois, M., Smart, A., Devine, T. L., & De Lacy Costello, B. (2021). A literature survey of all volatiles from healthy human breath and bodily fluids: the human volatilome. Journal of Breath Research, 15(3), 034001.

Nutrition profoundly influences our metabolism. During the consumption of food, it is broken down into smaller components, transported, and metabolized to maintain the body’s energy balance. Substances are also excreted in this process, influencing odor, such as sulfur-containing compounds found in garlic or onions. These breakdown products are then expelled from the body through breath, sweat, and urine, making their presence perceptible through odor. Additionally, meat consumption has a demonstrable effect on body odor (see Havlı́ček & Lenochová, 2006).

Reference: Havlı́ček, J., & Lenochová, P. (2006). The effect of meat consumption on body odor attractiveness. Chemical Senses, 31(8), 747–752.

Similar to food intake, all diseases influence our metabolism and, consequently, the metabolic by-products excreted in breath, sweat, and urine. However, this does not necessarily mean that we could perceive or measure these differences in all cases. For some diseases, there are known changes in body odor: For example, a fruity breath odor may indicate diabetes, while a fishy odor may suggest „fish odor syndrome“ (a metabolic disorder). These odors arise from the accumulation of specific chemical compounds in the body that cannot be properly broken down or excreted due to the disease. Another example is Parkinson’s disease. This could apply to many other diseases as well, but the mechanism or the responsible metabolic breakdown product are largely unknown so far.

The functioning of electronic noses is based on recognizing known body odors by their chemical properties. Odor molecules bind to various types of sensors or sensor arrangements, like the human olfactory system. The e-nose measures the chemical behavior of odor molecules and generates characteristic reaction patterns. These patterns are compared to a database of known odor molecules using methods such as machine learning. This technology is already successfully applied in various areas, including disease diagnosis such as Covid-19, where altered metabolic processes in body odor are detected.

Electronic noses are indeed used, for instance, in food monitoring. With the ongoing automation, their use is likely to expand further. However, they are by no means as widespread as other „digital senses.“ Perhaps, in part, this is due to the role we assign to the sense of smell?

Electronic noses – or more general chemical sensors – could be used in the future as an adjunct diagnostic tool, especially in areas where rapid and non-invasive tests are advantageous. In this regard, various applications can be envisioned, each with different requirements. For example, a device intended for diagnosing serious illnesses in a clinical setting may be large and bulky if necessary but should provide the most accurate response possible. For daily health monitoring or early detection in everyday life, such as for dementia or Parkinson’s in seniors, a small portable device, like a pulse monitor or a smartwatch, would be more helpful. It might not need to measure as precisely since further diagnostics could be conducted as part of the process. Therefore, it is currently unclear what roles electronic noses could play, but various applications are conceivable.

As an example see our partner SmartNanotubes Technologies GmbH

Meet Our Team

The smellodi consortium consists of six partners with longstanding expertise in their fields and the interdisciplinary experience required for achieving the envisioned technological breakthrough. Five partners are affiliated with academic institutions and one is a private company.

Gianaurelio Cuniberti
Gianaurelio CunibertiProject Coordinator / TU Dresden
Prof. Cuniberti has a long-standing expertise in materials science and nanotechnology. He gave seminal contributions to the field of molecular electronics, the development of novel sensors, and the computational modelling of nano-scale devices. For several years now, his chair’s research has set up a broad portfolio on electronic olfaction.
Thomas Hummel
Thomas HummelTU Dresden
Prof. Hummel is a leading expert in human olfaction. Under his direction, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Smell and Taste combines clinical work in the sense of diagnostic-therapeutic consultation of patients with smell or taste disorders, as well as basic and clinically oriented research.
Viktor Bezugly
Viktor BezuglyCEO / SmartNanotubes Technologies GmbH
Dr. Viktor Bezugly is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of SmartNanotubes Technologies GmbH, physicist, has 22 years of experience in R&D, was a group leader at TU Dresden, and a project leader at LSI Sachsen. SmartNanotubes Technology GmbH (SNT) is a deep-tech start-up founded in 2020 and based in Freital, Germany.
Alexander Croy
Alexander CroyFSU Jena
Dr. Alexander Croy‘s research mainly focuses on computational efforts, especially machine learning techniques and simulations for the development and description of nanomaterials. He recently became affiliated with the Chair of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, which is headed by Prof. Stefanie Gräfe.
Ilona Croy
Ilona CroyFSU Jena
Prof. Ilona Croy is an internationally recognized expert in the field of psychological research, with a strong emphasis on olfactory perception in healthy and individuals
with mental disorders. Since April 2021, Prof. Croy is leading the Chair of Clinical Psychology at the FSU Jena. In two projects funded by the DFG, her team investigates the perception, neural processing, and chemical composition of infantile body odors.
Shlomo Yitzchaik
Shlomo YitzchaikHUJI Israel
Prof. Shlomo Yitzchaik is the head of the Institute of Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) and the Binjamin H. Birstein Chair in Chemistry. His research interests span molecular layers, surface chemistry, organic electronics, bio-sensors, and neuroelectronic hybrids.
Veikko Surakka
Veikko SurakkaTampere University
Prof. Veikko Surakka and his team have expertise in emotion, cognition, human-human, human-computer interaction, and the development of new visionary multisensory interfaces for HCI. The group is also very experienced in the use of eNoses and various scent technologies, as well as programming and developing VR applications. Furthermore, the group has all the necessary infrastructure for developing next-generation odor displays, perform measurements of odorous gases, and human responses to odors.
Robert Hanus
Robert HanusIOCB Prague
Dr. Robert Hanus is educated in ecology and animal behaviour and throughout his research carried out in the Czech Academy of Sciences (Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Prague, Czechia) he focuses on chemical communication in social insects. Being aware that the modern techniques of chemical analysis in the gas phase he applies on insects may be useful in studies on chemical ecology of humans, he recently entered this new field of research.

Perception of Health and Disease

Our teams at TU Dresden and FSU Jena will be focusing on the characterization (i.e. sampling and analysis) of a variety of healthy and pathological body odors and their perception by normosmic and individuals with smell deficits.

Sensor Research and Development

Based on computational modeling techniques, HUJI Israel, TU Dresden and FSU Jena will work closely together to develop novel smell receptor molecules, which enable the electronic recognition of body odors.

Sensor and Odor Display Technologies

Tampere University works on a self-learning odor display, which enables the transmission and synthesis of body odors across time and space. SmartNanotubes Technologies provides their sensor platform, featuring the newly developed receptor molecules for sensing body odors.

Coordination and Dissemination

The project is coordinated at TU Dresden. Our results and activities will be disseminated within our scientific communities and to the general public.

Join our mission!

Our multi-disciplinary team is aiming at revolutionizing the digitization of human olfaction. Want to join us? Contact us and become a member of our teams in Dresden, Freital, Jena, Tampere or Israel.