Electronic nose in development for disease diagnoses

Written by Lauren Pulling

Researchers from the Texas Analog Center of Excellence at the University of Texas (TxACE; Dallas, TX, USA) are developing an affordable electronic nose that could be used to diagnose a range of diseases via breath analysis. While a number of breath analysis devices exist, they are often bulky, so the team have utilized CMOS technology to make the device more compact and affordable.

Most existing breath analysis diagnostics utilize compound semiconductors; however, they are mostly too bulky or costly for commercial use. The new device utilizes CMOS integrated circuits technology – the same technology that is used to manufacture smartphones, tablets and other devices – which the researchers believe will reduce the manufacturing cost of the device.

The electronic nose, presented at the 2016 IEEE Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits (Honolulu, HI, USA, 13–17 June 2016), detects chemical compounds in breath using rotational spectroscopy. By generating and transmitting electromagnetic waves over a range of frequencies and analyzing how they are attenuated, the device is able to determine the presence and concentrations of chemicals in breath.

“If you think about the industry around sensors that emulate our senses, it’s huge,” commented Kenneth O, University of Texas. “Imaging applications, hearing devices, touch sensors — what we are talking about here is developing a device that imitates another one of our sensing modalities and making it affordable and widely available. The possible use of the electronic nose is almost limitless. Think about how we use smell in our daily lives.”

The team state that the device is able to detect molecules at low concentrations, with a greater sensitivity than breathalyzers. The researchers envisage that the CMOS-based device will first be used in industrial settings, then subsequently in the clinical environment, where they hope that the test could reduce the need for blood tests, given that many of the compounds present in blood are also exhaled. They are working towards a prototype that will be ready for testing in early 2018.

Sources: Sharma N, Zhong Q, Choi W et al. 200-280GHz CMOS transmitter for rotational spectroscopy and demonstration in gas spectroscopy and breath analysis. Presented at: 2016 IEEE Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits. Honolulu, HI, USA, 13–17 June 2016; www.utdallas.edu/news/2016/6/16-32086_Scientific-Gains-May-Make-Electronic-Nose-the-Next_story-wide.html?WT.mc_id=NewsHomePage