A Device That Could Tell You if Your Breath Is Bad in Seconds Could Soon Be Available

Bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis, is simply the expulsion of a breath that is unpleasant especially when one speaks. This disquieting condition may also be embarrassing because no one will want to exude a fetid smell while interacting with family and friends, on a first date, or worse still, during a job interview. Malodorous breathing may have some psychosocial impacts, causing a decline in your self-esteem, and affecting your composure. It is also a lead-off sign of possible health issues such as gingivitis or sinusitis, therefore, deserving immediate attention.

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Bad Breath Detector

Bad Breath Detector. Image Courtesy of ACS Nano

Safe and portable diagnostic approach

Majority of the people can not ascertain the smell of their breath, and asking someone to help check out the odor of your mouth is awkward and embarrassing, then comes a need for a device that can help us do that, and ideally, a device that should check for bad breathe should be safe and easy to handle. Recent reports from ACS Nano have announced that researchers were able to develop a hand-held device, the size of a thumb, that can quickly diagnose bad breath simply by sensing expired air and checking for traces of the “bad breath” gas, hydrogen sulfide.

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How it works

Previous devices that diagnosed bad breath also worked on the principle of detecting the presence of hydrogen sulfide in expired air, though they required a sample of expired air to be collected, and sent to the lab to be analyzed by big-ticket machines that were quite costly for the people.

With some funding from the National Research Foundation of Korea and the Nano Convergence Foundation, the researchers, Kak Namkoong, Il-Doo Kim, and a few other experts explored previous knowledge of the behavior of sulfur-containing gases (like hydrogen sulfide) with some metallic oxides, who change their electrical conductivity on reacting with sulfur. Also, a pairing of metallic oxides with noble metal catalysts, makes it more accurate and selective. A combination of these factors was considered to develop a portable, immediate, and accurate bad breath detector that will respond fastest and strongest to hydrogen sulfide when present in the air blown directly on it.

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The scientists made an equal mixture of nanoparticles of the alkali metal salt, sodium chloride, and a noble metal catalyst, platinum, together with tungsten. The solution was electrospun into nanofibres and was heated to convert the tungsten to its metallic oxide state. Prefatory tests confirmed that an equal mixture of each of the constituting metals showed the highest reactivity to hydrogen sulfide, with a reaction of 9.5 and 2.7 times the reactions with either dimethyl sulfide or methyl mercaptan respectively. The scientists then coated the prepared nanofibres on interlocked gold electrodes, with the addition of temperature, pressure, and humidity sensors to the gas sensor, to create a thumb-sized device, and when real human breaths were exhaled onto it, the device rightly picked up bad breathe in 86% of the cases.


Over the years, the detection of bad breath was either embarrassing, cumbersome, or expensive, but with the innovative development of an accurate hand-held device that can be incorporated into small devices, there will be a positive evolution in the self-diagnosis of bad breath.


Surface Activity-Tuned Metal Oxide Chemiresistor: Toward Direct and Quantitative Halitosis Diagnosis



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