Diagnostics

Four cool and unique breathalyzer applications

There are many uses for breathalyzer technology these days: diagonstics, weight loss, smoking cessation and more. These are four unique applications for this technology.

The breathalyzer has long been associated with detecting the alcoholic fumes we may exhale — but truth is, these devices can be used for so much more. Like pot detection.

Beyond that, researchers are broadly applying breathalyzer technology to disease detection and wellness promotion – understanding, for instance, how disease may shift the body’s metabolomics and produce quantifiably different levels and types of gases.

Here are four fascinating ways researchers are using breathalyzers as next-gen medical tools:

1. Sniffing out sneaky weight gain

Wisconsin startup Isomark has developed a breath-based test that can detect infection within two hours of its onset. The patented concept has wide-reaching applications – for instance, it’s proposed developing a smart neonatal incubator that’s constantly checking a preemie’s breath for signs of sepsis.

But there’s more. Recently, CEO Joe Kremer told the Wisconsin State Journal that this technology can also “smell” if you’re about to gain weight. By detecting the body’s metabolic changes, it can at any moment show when someone has an energy surplus — too many calories to burn. If that’s the case, well, maybe you should sidestep that second piece of cake.

Potential markets for this technology? Patients using feeding tubes in longterm care, folks enrolled in weight management programs, and athletes attempting to bulk up.

2. Smoking cessation

A nicotine-detecting breathalyzer from startup Intelliquit assesses how much a person smokes by measuring their expired breath. This is better method than counting cigarettes, the company asserts, because it can determine the nicotine consumption based on inhalation speed and depth, and the number of puffs taken.

This is coupled with videogames, such as “Smoke the Zombies,” that are meant to gamify cigarette tracking and cessation – ultimately making it somewhat fun for an otherwise cantankerous quitter.

Intelliquit just raised more than $20,000 last month from crowdfunding site MedStartr.

3. Laser-yzer

Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have built a laser that can measures the different gases in one’s breath with “almost instant” results. They just published news of this spectrometer in Optics Express.

“Rather than sniffing out a variety of smells as a dog would, the laser system uses light to ‘sense’ the range of molecules that are present in the sample,” researcher Dr. James Anstie said in a statement.

The laser sends up to 1 million different light frequencies through the breath sample in parallel. Each gas molecule absorbs the light at different molecule frequencies, and have a unique molecular fingerprint. The researchers are now working on ways to accurately sample and interpret the levels which will naturally vary from person to person.

A commercial product could be available within the next three to five years, Anstie says.

4. Pot detection

It’s not necessarily just alcohol that can be detected on the breath.

A Canadian company is now developing a “breathalyzer for pot,” as Engadget points out:

With cannabis now legal in some form or another in nearly half of the US, states and private companies alike are scrambling for a means of adapting DUI legislation to weed. To that end, Vancouver-based Cannabix Technologies Inc is developing what is expected to bethe first “pot breathalyzer.”

The device is still merely a prototype and undergoing in-house testing – so it’s unclear whether it’ll be effective. But there’s a clear market need to evaluate the sobriety of legally sanctioned weed smokers.