A lonely scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), thinks to himself, “If only… if only I could have a nose… like a dog!” After a bit of staring off into the distance, he continues, “So powerful, so strong! The dog’s nose is capable of sniffing like no other. I wonder how it works…” And then, NIST scientist Matthew Staymates heads to the lab to 3D print a dog’s nose on the company’s brand new Connex500 3D printer.
Producing copies of a female Labrador Retreiver’s nose, Staymates and his colleagues at the NIST Material Measurement Laboratory began exploring how the dog’s nose is designed to be such a perfect sniffer, according to Defense One. With the replicas, the team has been performing a number of flow visualization experiments with their schlieren optical system to see how the nose captures smells. The artificial nose devices, according to Staymates, demonstrates how actual dog noses shoot air away from the nostrils, which allows them to bring new scents in “from impressive distances.” As you can see in the brief video below, the lab’s optical system captures variations in air temperature and density to show how the air surrounding the dog nose flows.
This, in addition to the huge number of olfactory receptors in a dog’s brain, contributes to the canine’s powerful sniffing capabilities. The research is now being used to inform studies in fields like security-checkpoint technology and to develop new vapor-sampling devices.