MD.20.002 – Early Detection of Veterinary Diseases by Low Concentration VOC sensing

Route: Measuring and detecting: anything, anytime, anywhere

Cluster question: 015 How can we make agricultural production systems more sustainable as the worldwide demand for healthy, safe food continues to grow?

Many (veterinary) diseases are accompanied by the emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in a specific composition, as confirmed by veterinarian practitioners who can ‘smell’ the presence of a specific disease when entering a stable. Detection of this VOC mixture in very low concentrations could help early detection, with possibilities for curing and prevention of spreading. To this end, the availability of a versatile, cheap, and yet very sensitive electronic nose system is needed. Such a system would consist of a generic sensor platform, based on micro- or nanotechnology making it sufficiently sensitive, coated with capture layers, specific for the application. Because the capture layers cannot be made 100% specific for a given VOC, the readout of an array of sensors, each coated with a different layer, will have to be processed to yield a fingerprint of the composition of the mixture. This system is mimicking the way the (human) olfactory system works, where a pattern of responses from various odorant receptors in the nose is recognised as a specific smell.
Early detection of diseases, also for humans, is only one of the many challenges in society where cheap, yet sensitive sensor platforms for VOC detection in air would be of great benefit. Over the years, applications have been identified in prevention of food spoilage (rotting of crop), forensics (laboratories for synthetic drugs, explosives), safety (CO detection in low concentrations at home, forest fires), or preventive maintenance (lubrication wear-out).
To this end, the applicants have taken up the challenge to develop a cheap, yet very sensitive VOC detection system based on electronic nose principles for early veterinary disease detection. The aim is to bring together experts, from industry, science and societal organisations, to find the best combination of technologies with maximum possible impact in the field.


chemical functionalisation, electronics nose, pattern recognition, sensing, veterinary diseases, VOCs

Other organisations

University of Twente - Technical University of Delft


Organisation Saxion University of Applied Sciences
Name Dr. Ir. C. (Cas) Damen