Nosang Myung, a researcher at the University of California, Riverside has created an electronic 'nose' using nanotechnology, which he says could be integrated into portable technology like cellphones to 'smell' harmful airborne substances. Applications for the tech don't stop there, though: the same tech could also be used to measure concentrations of pesticides in agriculture, monitoring for chemical leaks in industry, or even warning of bio-terrorism. The device uses carbon nanotubes, which have been arranged in such a way that they can detect a variety of air-borne substances.
The technology has been licensed to start-up Nano Engineering Applications, which envisages phones that are able to measure air quality and toxins, pairing this data with GPS information that can be used to monitor the safety of air in a given area. However, there's no word on which manufacturers might consider including the tech — they might take some convincing considering the drive for thinner and thinner phones.