Job offer for a PhD in Analytical Chemistry Project/Work Assignment

Exploration and validation of a promising, innovative analytical technology for Continuous Odour Monitoring (duration 6 months)


Odournet recently was selected as the project partner for Odour Management, Assessment and Monitoring for Odour Emission in an important new emerging urban area of Madrid named Valdemingomez.  Important civil waste and waste water treatment plants are located in an industrial park adjacent to the area for urban development, which risks causing nuisance problems for future inhabitants, with the associated social conflict. Odournet was given the task to establish the existing odour impacts, and also to prepare an odour management plan to reduce odour impacts to an acceptable level. The monitoring proramme uses both sensory methods, with field panels of human assessors, and instrumental methods (continuous odorant monitoring). Among state of the art odour assessment technology Odournet has invested in best in class analytical technology (GC-MS/TOF), which allows precise chracterisation of molecular composition of the emissions in the study area. These can then be correlated to the responses of two methodologies for continuous odorant monitoring that will be applied in the study area, over a one year period:

  • highly innovative fast analytical technology based on GC-IMS (ion mobility spectroscopy). GC-IMS
  • More conventional online MOS sensor arrays (e-nose)

Scientific Challenge

The project challenge is to transform the GC-IMS technology from its current level into a continuous odour monitoring solution for relevant smells in ambient air. First Experiments and experience from other applications indicate that this is possible in a laboratory setting. In this project the challenge is to make an extra step: it is necessary to provide scientific facts as well as measurement concepts and solutions which can be applied in a rough environment.

The explicit challenge in the field is: To be able to detect odorant fingerprints at concentrations where human assessors indicate a distinct, recognisable smell, and at that level to link the odorant fingerprint to specific odour types associated with emission sources (e.g. biogas, wastewater treatment smell etc.)

Project scope and anticipated timeline, supervision and team

The project foresees to provide feasibility and demonstration facts by End of October and a phase of optimization of all elements relevant which can be related to sampling, instrument configuration/hardware, software and firmware.

Two GC-IMS instruments have been commissioned for this project:

  • A FlavourSpec GC/IMS, with autosampler, for use in the Barcelona laboratory, with the main aim to ascertain the correlation between IMS fingerprints and GC/TOF results
  • A GC/IMS with similar chracteristics, but without autosampler, for field use. This instrument needs to be fitted in a van for mobile use in the field.

We anticipate following tasks to be relevant

  • Get familiar with the GC-IMS instrument, hardware and software and have the ability to produce relevant analytical reports with appropriate data, data visualization and validation.
  • Receive and process relevant odour samples, analyse the data and produce meaningful results based on the advanced methods for processing GC-IMS data. It is has been demonstrated already that odour sources of different origin have characteristic VOC-fingerprints which can be visualized with the GC-IMS 2D Spectrum.
  • Correlate Results obtained by GC-IMS with measurements made on the best- in class analytical technology called GC-MS/GC-MS-TOF/ GCO and show the similarities in the GC-IMS data or alternatively distinct characteristics which are useful for monitoring
  • Demonstrate that such characteristics (Fingerprints) help to identify the odour origin, its source
  • Demonstrate that such characteristics can be monitored in field, and correlated to human assessor observations.
  • Writing as author of comprehensive client reports and scientific publications on IMS as a technology for continuous odorant monitoring

Anticipated Timeline (Mid August 2015 – Mid Feb. 2016)

  • Start ASAP, ideally Aug 24
  • Arrival of the FlavourSpec instrument (week of Aug 24)
    • Unpack and install the instruments
    • Basic training
      • Instrument operation
      • Data visualization and interpretation tools
      • Quantification and identification for key odourant molecules
    • Initial experiments (first 2 weeks of September)
      • Process GC-IMS for the initial set of odour samples
      • Compare with GC-MS/TOF – GCO results
      • Identify important odour relevant molecules
      • Measurements in parallel between mobile GC-IMS and Flavour Spec instrument.
    • Preparation of first in Field operated GC-IMS Measurements (Sept 14 – Sept 19)
      • Understand requirements to go mobile (Van/Vehicule set-up)
      • Acquire first test data in the field (testing in Barcelona) and process results
      • Optimize set-up
    • Apply knowledge on the real Project Context the PTVD (Parco Technologico Valdemingomez)
      • Travel to Madrid, set up instrument for in field analysis – as soon as ready
      • Transmit data summaries on agreed times
      • Apply concept of odour monitoring to at least 3 most relevant odour sources
        • Composting/sludge drying
        • Landfill / biogas collection
        • Biogas purification plants
      • provide adequate data and reports – information for the decision to go forward
        • Analysis of current set-up and improvement proposal
        • Prioritize improvement steps
        • Demonstrate higher performance in field
      • Develop and execute experimental plan for a validation phase approx.. 3 month
        • Correlate GC-IMS with Grid-Inspection
        • Continuous odour monitoring
        • Develop concepts for Integrating monitoring parameters into an odour monitoring software tool (odourmap)

Project team, support and supervision:

  • Close collaboration with the team of Dr. Luciano Vera, head of the Odournet CoC Molecular, validation and comparison measurements possible on best in class analytical Technology (GC-MS/TOF, GCO) – support and supervision by the COC Molecular team
  • Close interaction with Laura Rodriguez, Project and Communication manager for the PTVD project (internal communication, external reporting to the customer / government of Madrid)
  • Close collaboration with Hansruedi Gygax, consulting Odournet as odour measurement expert (ex Givaudan) with 20 years of experience in measuring odours in complex measurement context. Hansruedi has been tasked with the implementation of IMS technology as continuous odorant measurement technology, and in particular in leading the implementation in the field in this PTVD project.


Odournet S.L. can offer a fixed time contract for 6 months, full time, starting now, late August, and ending end February 2016:

  • Duration: 6 months
  • Full time, 40 hrs/week
  • Location: Initially Barcelona, later Madrid
  • Remuneration: to be discussed

Towards the end of the project, Odournet can review the opportunities for a follow-up contract, mainly depending on the demonstrated viability of the GC-IMS methodology as a practical tool for continuous odorant monitoring, and the viability of commercial application.