Electronic 'nose' built here can find cancer
An electronic nose to sniff out cancer is being developed by Irish scientists.
The device -- which has the potential to detect aggressive cancers, like prostate and bladder cancer, at an early stage -- is being put together at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork.
It also has the potential for future use in food safety and security.
The project has already passed the design stage and the Cork scientists are working in conjunction with centres in Spain, France, Italy and Britain.
While work on similar technology has been carried out internationally, this is the first project working with nanomaterials which have a scale of one millionth of a millimetere in diameter.
Project co-ordinator Dr Vladimir Ogurtsov explained: "It is a three-year project but I estimate that, within five years, some kind of portable device would be available.
"We have attached nano-sized receptors than can recognise smells to a nanotransducer and the main work will be modifying the receptors and the electronic signals to get to a standard that can be used for clinical diagnosis."
Dr Ogurtsov said the new technology could also have applications in food safety or in security and environment by using smell sensors.
"The great thing is that, while it is being led by world-recognised researchers, the project also involves postgraduate students, which boost the abilities of the next generation of Irish scientists," he added.
Ireland has been ranked as the world's eighth best country for quality of research in materials science, including nanoscience.
We are ahead of more than 150 other countries including France, Canada, Australia and Japan.
Trinity College Dublin's nanoscience institute CRANN said the ranking was testament to the investment in the area over the past decade.
A recent report by the Government's technology advisory group Forfas said non-public funding for nanoscience research could be raised, but focus must be put on commercialisation to improve our share of a global market that could increase to €2 trillion by 2015.