Stand-off chemical sensing is an important capability with applications in several domains including homeland security. Engineered devices for this task, popularly referred to as electronic noses, have limited capacity compared to the broad-spectrum abilities of the biological olfactory system. Therefore, we propose a hybrid bio-electronic solution that directly takes advantage of the rich repertoire of olfactory sensors and sophisticated neural computational framework available in an insect olfactory system. We show that select subsets of neurons in the locust (Schistocerca americana) brain were activated upon exposure to various explosive chemical species (such as DNT and TNT). Responses from an ensemble of neurons provided a unique, multivariate fingerprint that allowed discrimination of explosive vapors from non-explosive chemical species and from each other. Notably, target chemical recognition could be achieved within a few hundred milliseconds of exposure. In sum, our study provides the first demonstration of how biological olfactory systems (sensors and computations) can be hijacked to develop a cyborg chemical sensing approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100050
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics: X
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Chemical sensing
  • Explosives detection
  • Insect-based machine olfaction
  • Neural engineering
  • Neural signals
  • Pattern recognition


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