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Gaseous odorant detection using an olfactory receptor-based array

Value Proposition

Many hazardous substances can be identified by the odorants they emit, and the detection of these odorants provides a contact-independent method of analysis that has great utility in industry, healthcare, agriculture, environmental protection, and national security. As such, the digital scent technology market, which includes devices capable of detecting (e.g. electronic nose) and generating odorants, is expected to undergo significant growth from $156 million in 2014 to $691 million by 2020, indicating a significant market demand for odorant-detection technologies.


Dr. Hiroaki Matsunami, a professor at Duke University, has developed a novel in vitro method for detecting gaseous odorants using cells expressing olfactory receptors. This method permits the reliable discrimination of individual odorants even when present in complex mixtures, given the highly-selective nature of olfactory receptor activation. This invention has encouraging implications in the detection of explosives, illicit drugs, spoiled food, or various other malodors.


Most current technologies in this area rely on mechanical sensors rather than biological olfactory receptors, and thus reliable discrimination of specific odorants remains a challenge. The current invention utilizes olfactory receptors, which endow our sense of smell to distinguish over 1 trillion scents.

Duke File (IDF) Number



  • Matsunami, Hiroaki "Hiro"

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School of Medicine (SOM)