Bio-Electric Odor Sensor for the Detection of Pathogenic Microbial Infections, Contamination, Decomposition, and Boar Taint

Bohbot Jonathan, HUJI, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences, Entomology


Food Analysis & Security , Molecular Electronics


Nanotech, BIoSensor, Odor, Volatile

Current development stage

General list: TRL2  Technology Concept Formulated                                                              

Collaboration Opportunity

Sponsored Research with an option to License Research Results

Ensuring food safety and quality is crucial to public health, in particular by limiting food spoilage. To determine decomposition and microbial contamination, the indole and skatole compounds which give off highly unpleasant smells have been proposed as indicators of food quality in seafood (crustaceans, fish and oyster) and markers of fecal contamination in food and water. In addition the indole and skatole compounds are the main contributors to “boar taint” in pork meat, as the highly unpleasant order emitted by them is perceived as “animal,” “urine,” “fecal” or “sweat-like.”

Current methods to detect off-putting smells via the use of chemical analysis and sensory panels lack speed, selectivity and sensitivity. These desirable characteristics are only offered through biological systems. The mosquito indole-sensitive receptors (indolORs) are promising candidates for fulfilling these tasks when implemented in a nano-biosensor and offer a wide-range of applications across the agro-food chain, process manufacturing sectors, and the clinical arena.


Our Innovation

Our researchers are building a portable nano-tech bio-electrical device to detect indole and skatole compounds with high sensitivity and selectivity. This device is made of a carbon nanotube tethered to mosquito-derived indolergic odorant receptors (indolORs), which have been found to react to these molecules in the pico-molar range (parts per trillion). The advantages of this bioelectrical device are:

  • User friendly
  • High speed
  • High sensitivity & selectivity
  • Small form factor (portable)
  • Multiplexing (different odorants processed simultaneously).


The mosquito indole-sensitive receptors (indolORs) are some of the most sensitive odor receptors (ORs) discovered to date. They can be incorporated with a nanocarbon-based device to produce an indole - and skatole-specific bioelectronic nose. Purification of indolOR-containing small membrane fragments and further immobilization to the sidewall of a carbon nanotube transistor channel, via covalent modification, will result in an indolOR-based bioelectronic nose (see figure below).




Yissum filed for a provisional patent and the researchers published a scientific article entitled “The Emergence of Insect Odorant Receptor-Based Biosensors”[1]. The researcher is looking for industry partners for sponsoring the research and for future commercialization.


[1] https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6374/10/3/26

Patent Status


Contact for more information:

Ilya Pittel
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