6 December, 2021
Many people would describe themselves as sensitive to smells—an open bin makes them retch, perfume makes them sneeze, and they can smell spoiled milk from a mile away. But even the most sensitive human nose has nothing on the odorant receptors of an insect, which are so sensitive they can smell a single molecule, as well as easily detect a wide range of chemicals.
These factors mean insect odorant receptors have significant potential in artificial nose technologies. However, to make them useful to science, we need to know more about their structure and function.
Principal Investigator, Dr Natalie Plank from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences and the MacDiarmid Institute, is leading a team using nanoelectric devices to investigate how olfactory receptors transmit signals to insects about their surroundings. She’s working alongside Dr Colm Carraher from Plant & Food Research and Dr Adam Micolich from the University of New South Wales. They have been awarded nearly $1 million from Te Pūtea Rangahau a Marsden—the Marsden Fund. The grant provides research funding for three years.