Breathalyzer tests may not just be for law enforcement anymore. They may be coming to your doctor's office as early disease detectors thanks to sensitive biomarker detection technology. Scientists have detected a molecule associated with diabetes, with a sensitivity of parts per billion in gas mimicking a patient's breath. That's at least 100 times better than the performance of previous breath analysis technologies, the scientists say.
"The goal is having a tool that can eliminate a lot of the hassle of dealing with blood and so on and can also minimize more expensive testing," Carlos Martinez, a materials engineer at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, told PhysOrg.com.
"People have been working in this area for about 30 years but have not been able to detect low enough concentrations in real time," he told R&D Magazine. "We solved that problem with the materials we developed, and we are now focusing on how to be very specific, how to distinguish particular biomarkers."
The researchers took micron-size polymer particles and coated them with smaller metal oxide nanoparticles. Using these nanoparticle-coated microparticles instead of a flat surface allows researchers to increase the porosity of the sensor films, increasing the "active sensing surface area" to improve sensitivity.