JUL 27, 2021 7:00 AM PDT

Thumb-Sized Device Tells You if Your Breath Stinks

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

People generally can’t smell their own breath. So, for individuals with halitosis—or bad breath—friends giving them a wide berth may be the first red flag that something's wrong. Funky breath isn’t just a deal-breaker on dates and interviews. Halitosis can also be a warning sign of potentially problematic dental issues, metabolic conditions, or even cancer.

Now, instead of breathing into the palms to gauge odor levels, a small, real-time breath analyzing device could do it for you. Researchers have devised a sophisticated hand-held platform powered by nanotechnology that detects the presence of hydrogen sulfide. This chemical, present in exhaled air, gives bad breath its characteristic stench.

Bad-breath detectors of hydrogen sulfide aren’t new. The problem, however, is that previous iterations require users to breathe into a tube that is then sent off to a lab for testing using expensive instrumentation. Based on these limitations, Kak Namkoong, Il-Doo Kim, and colleagues wanted to create the first gadget for halitosis detection on the go.

Their design consisted of nanofibers that react with hydrogen sulfide. Gold electrodes connected the nanofibers to a series of sensors, all of which were housed in a prototype device roughly the size of a thumb. Data from preliminary studies showed that the sensor had an accuracy rate of around 86 percent when tested among a cohort of human participants. 

 

Source: ACS Nano.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
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