Disposable sensor created to detect disease markers in breath

Engineering

A new method of creating disposable sensors for detecting disease markers in people's breath has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois.

The low-cost sensor consists of a small, thin square of organic plastic that has been printed with tiny pores to allow access to the chemically reactive sites beneath the surface of the plastic film.

“A new disposable sensor has been developed that can potentially detect markers of disease in a person's breath.“

Doing so increased the reactivity of the device tenfold, allowing it to sense targeted compounds at a sensitivity of one part per billion. A test of the system showed it was able to pick up signs of ammonia in the breath, a sign of kidney failure.

Current monitoring systems are large, expensive tabletop devices, with previous attempts to use organic semiconductors for gas sensing not proving to be sensitive enough. This new approach is refined enough to not only pick out disease markers in the breath, but also toxins in a building's air.

By changing the composition of the sensor, the team also has the potential to create devices that are tuned to other compounds.

Study leader Professor Ying Diao said: "We would like to be able to detect multiple compounds at once, like a chemical fingerprint. It's useful because in disease conditions, multiple markers will usually change concentration at once."

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