Half of adults suffer from halitosis at some point. While bad breath is just annoying in most cases, sometimes it is a symptom of serious medical and dental problems. Yet many people with halitosis may not be aware of their condition unless someone tells them. Now, a new device may be able to identify bad breath.
Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a sensor that detects tiny amounts of hydrogen sulphide gas, a compound responsible for bad breath, in human breath.
To develop their sensor, the researchers used a chemical that turns brown when exposed to hydrogen sulphide. On its own, it is not sensitive to the amounts of hydrogen sulphide in human breath, but the researchers anchored it to a 3D nanofiber web, providing numerous sites for the chemical and hydrogen sulphide to react.
The researchers collected breath samples, which were mixed with 1 part per million (ppm) of hydrogen sulphide to simulate halitosis, and the mixtures were exposed to the sensors. All of the sensors turned from white to a brown, indicating successful sensing of hydrogen sulphide.
The sensors could detect as little as 400 parts per billion (ppb) of hydrogen sulphide. Also, the colour-changing sensor detected traces of hydrogen sulphide added to the breath samples from ten healthy volunteers. The researchers believe the technology would be inexpensive and easy to use in medical and dental offices and could be adapted to detect other illnesses.