More than 400 volatile organic compounds have been identified in the human breath, some of them possible indicators of various diseases. To detect these diseases in their early stage by means of exhaled breath analysis, we need highly sensitive detectors able to measure volatile organic compounds at picomolar concentrations. In this way, breath analysis may have the chance to become an easy, non-invasive and convenient tool for medical diagnostics.

Ethylene from breath analysis: effect of sun protection creams tested with the ETD-300.Breakdown of cell membranes due to lipid peroxidation produces, amongst others, traces of ethylene (C2H4) in exhaled air. In normal situations, free radical formation and radical scavenging are balanced. This balance can be disturbed by e.g. UV-light, trauma, skin diseases excessive work out or pulmonary diseases.

Currently, the ETD-300 ethylene detector is applied to assess the amount of damage to the tissue caused by a number of these processes. The ethylene can be measured either directly from the skin or from exhaled air, from spontaneous breathing people or intubated patients during and post-operation.

Next to ethylene, ammonia (NH3is a natural human body product. The medical community shows a considerably interest in ammonia detectors that can be applied for measuring ammonia levels in exhaled air for the diagnosis of certain diseases, such as kidney disorders or ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori.