McKelvey School of Engineering

Water quality monitor, locust-inspired electronic nose under development

Clockwise from top left: Raman, Chakrabartty, Singamaneni, Giordano, Steensma, Parker, Ling, Giammar (Image: McKelvey School of Engineering)

Two teams of engineers led by faculty in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis will work toward developing products to monitor drinking water quality and to detect explosives with an electronic nose with one-year, $650,000 Convergence Accelerator Phase 1 grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Barani Raman, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering, and Daniel Giammar, PhD, the Walter E. Browne Professor of Environmental Engineering, will lead teams of researchers from Washington University and other institutions and entities funded under the NSF’s Convergence Accelerator program, designed to address national-scale societal challenges through convergence research and to transition basic research and discovery into practice to solve these challenges aligned with specific research themes. Among the themes are real-world chemical sensing applications, bio-inspired design innovations and equitable water solutions.

Raman and his collaborators have been working for nearly two decades to harness insects’ keen sense of smell into a sensor that could be used to detect explosives and in other applications. Now, they will take it a step further by incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and nanotechnology to create a sensor, or electronic nose, to detect explosive volatile organic compounds.

Raman, professor of biomedical engineering, will work with longtime McKelvey Engineering collaborators Shantanu Chakrabartty, PhD, the Clifford W. Murphy Professor in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering; Srikanth Singamaneni, PhD, the Lilyan & E. Lisle Hughes Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science; and Braden Giordano, associate superintendent of the Chemistry Division at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

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