Real-time gas identification on mobile platforms using a nanomechanical membrane-type surface stress sensor
© Guerrero et al.; licensee Springer on behalf of EPJ. 2014
Received: 23 June 2014
Accepted: 19 August 2014
Published: 30 September 2014
Here we show real-time multiple gas identification on a mobile platform through the use of an array of nanomechanical membrane-type surface stress sensors (MSS). Commercially available hardware is used to integrate the MSS array into a portable unit with wireless capability. This unit transmits data to a consumer mobile tablet where data is displayed and processed in real-time. To achieve real-time processing with the limited computational power of commercial mobile hardware, a machine learning algorithm known as Random Forest is implemented. We demonstrate the real-time identification capability of the device by measuring the vapours of water, ethanol, isopropanol, and ambient air.
1.1 Hardware implementation
Two piezoelectric micropumps (Bartels Microtechnik mp6) flowed sample gases and ambient air over the MSS chip near their maximum rate of 0.3 m L/s. A commercially available analog to digital converter with a resolution of 632 nV (ADS1258 EVM) measured the differential output voltage of the MSS with a bias voltage of -1.0 V. An Arduino Mega 2560 received this data via a Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) to the analog-to-digital converter. The Arduino Mega 2560 also controlled the micropump switching. A custom breakout board mounted the MSS chip, which was then encased in a 3D-printed enclosure designed to maximize gas flow over the polymer receptor layers (Figure 1b). The Arduino Mega then sent the data to a consumer tablet (Google Nexus 7) over WiFi, using an Arduino WiFi shield.
1.2 Data processing
Random Forests  allow short characterization times of arbitrary input; characterization time is tunable through the size of the Forest. Each Forest can be tailored to complete its task on hardware of arbitrary speeds while maintaining a real-time analysis. Once generated offline, this machine learning algorithm can be moved to a target platform for quick, real-time analysis. Classification of data using a Random Forest simply involves traversal of many decision trees, which can be multithreaded easily for fast computation on multi-core processors. While this approach is sometimes coupled with Principle Component Analysis (PCA) to determine better candidates for predictors , the device is capable of identifying the chosen samples without requiring the full dataset in contrast to PCA. Voltage variations as a result of sample flowing through the device form unique curves when measured over time. These curves have several identifying characteristics, which can be extracted quickly by splitting the input into several windows, obtaining the difference of their averages, and using these as predictors for the Random Forest analysis.
The Random Forest was trained on sample data collected with the device using Scikit-learn  with Python 3.2. Converting the Forest into a custom, portable file format allows a consumer handheld tablet to predict outcomes with the CPU to be the only limiting factor in prediction speed.
The training data was found to be easy to differentiate as a series of slopes in a voltage vs time series. Since the signal was divided evenly into eight segments per purge/sample cycle, the slopes between the averages of each segment indicated the general trend of the curve. Using these slopes as predictors for the Random Forest allowed the algorithm to identify sample gases with a high degree of accuracy (Additional files 1, 2).
We have demonstrated that the combination of an advanced algorithm (Random Forest) and the optimized nanomechanical sensor (MSS) can achieve real-time gas identification with commerical off-the-shelf hardware. Since the peripheral electronic components can be miniaturized by the introduction of application specific integrated circuits (ASIC) or field programmable gate arrays (FPGA), the present demonstration indicates the feasibility of integrating a real-time nanomechanical olfactory system into virtually any type of mobile platforms such as smartphones. Future developments towards real world applications will include a larger dataset with proper selection of parameters from output signals, effective receptor layers, and optimization of system components including the chamber and pumps.
The authors express gratitude to Dr. Heinrich Rohrer, Dr. Terunobu Akiyama, Dr. Frederic Loizeau, Dr. Sebastian Gautsch, Dr. Peter Vettiger, Dr. Kota Shiba, Mr. Cory J. Y. Lee, Mr. Mayuran Saravanapavanantham, and Mr. Max Palumbo for their indispensable contributions to the development of the MSS platform and related devices, and Prof. Masakazu Aono, Dr. Tomonobu Nakayama, and Prof. Nico F. de Rooij for their help and support. This work was supported by WPI Research Center Initiative for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA); the Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientist (A) 23685017 (2011), MEXT, Japan; Research Foundation for Opto-Science and Technology (REFOST); TEPCO Memorial Foundation; and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).
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