Electronic Olfactory Systems: future-oriented industrial research
In the year 2000 several studies were carried out at key Italian University research centres operating in the innovative materials field: these studies allowed Sacmi to identify a series of advanced technologies with a potential for industrial-scale development.
One of the major themes was the manufacturing technology used to make thin, metal oxide semi-conductor (M.O.S.) gas sensors: this technology was developed by the Gas Sensors Lab of the Material Engineering Chemistry-Physics Department at the University of Brescia, a facility which is part of the National Institute of the Physics of Matter.
Thus began a transfer of technology from research centre to company, a process that came about as the result of both specific research agreements and the taking on of graduates at the University Department.
Sacmi has also channelled investment into the construction of an advanced research centre for training of qualified researchers and improvement of the equipment needed to develop the innovative sensors that are fully designed, built and tested internally.
This strategy, while a costly one in terms of resource allocation, is based on the conviction that highly complex industrial problems (e.g. foodstuff quality control through odour monitoring) can only be solved through total control of the measuring system - the sensors. This means being able to select and modify the characteristics of the sensors by acting on the materials of which they are made: the semi-conductor oxide (M.O.S.) films. Equally important, from an industrial reliability viewpoint, is the need to ensure consistent, repeatable sensor response over time.
In addition to the strategic aspect of sensor performance in itself, the perfection of an electronic olfactory system will also require specific plant engineering, electronic, IT and statistical skills.
This is because it is necessary to come up with systems that can interface with different production logics – systems that can sample and monitor odours directly on the line, acquire measurements and process them quickly, plus new software capable of analysing complex situations and thus singling out the factors that determine quality.
Thanks to a unique blend of inter-disciplinary know-how (an essential component in all SACMI Group activities), vital scientific contributions from key research facilities and close collaboration with the final users, we feel that success is inevitable.