Saving lives one breath at a time

March 9, 2010

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has completed a project to help a UK company diagnose medical conditions through monitoring patients' breath.

Bedfont Scientific Ltd is one of the market leaders in developing personal diagnostic gas sensors for the medical market. Its sensors can continuously monitor levels of certain gases in human breath, and could potentially be used in place of certain invasive blood tests.

In order to extend their position in this market, and confirm their reputation for quality and accuracy, Bedfont required its instruments to be independently evaluated.

To achieve this, Managing Director Trevor Smith, was seconded to NPL under a scheme called Measurement for Innovators. This gave Bedfont direct access to NPL's scientific expertise and state-of-the-art facilities.

NPL helped Bedfont determine key performance parameters for two types of electrochemical breath sensors, one for measuring carbon monoxide and the other for measuring hydrogen. Bedfont tested their instruments against the concentrations of these gases that are relevant to the medical market.

The presence of certain levels of these gases in human breath is medically extremely important. One sensor, for example, shows whether a patient has been smoking, allowing to demonstrate potentially harmful carbon monoxide levels to smokers. Another detects if a patient is suffering from gut disorder, indicated by increased levels of hydrogen in a patient's breath.

NPL confirmed that the sensors measured these gases within their technical specification, had linear response characteristics, and had negligible interferences from certain breath gases, which may cause false positives.

The results of the tests carried out at NPL provided Bedfont with the necessary independent verification of its sensors giving it a potential edge over international competitors, and the opportunity to expand within the UK's National Health Service and into other global markets.

Nick Martin, Senior Research Scientist at NPL, said: "Measurement is critical to many areas of the medical industry and can assist in an improved understanding of some diseases. Personalised breath sensors can provide additional diagnostic information for making medical decisions. As the trend for their use widens it will be necessary to establish performance standards and to independently verify equipment using traceable gas mixtures. Companies that meet the standards will find it easier to penetrate the target markets of the future."

Following the secondment, Trevor Smith of Bedfont commented: "It was very important for us to be able to show that our instruments are fit for purpose, and scientifically sound. NPL helped us demonstrate this by revealing the close agreement between analytical techniques of gas analysis, traceable calibration standards and our breath monitoring equipment."

Explore further: Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it's a bridge!

Related Stories

NPL unveils new equipment to make cancer treatment safer

November 14, 2008

A new piece of medical technology unveiled at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) today will help improve the success rates of radiotherapy cancer treatments. The new clinical electron linear accelerator (linac) will help ...

Satellites search out South Pole snowfields

January 13, 2009

As skiers across the world pay close attention to the state of the snow on the slopes, there are a different group of scientific snow-watchers looking closely at a South Pole snowfield this January.

I'm forever imploding bubbles

April 7, 2009

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has developed the first sensor capable of measuring localized ultrasonic cavitation - the implosion of bubbles in a liquid when a high frequency sound wave is applied. The sensor will ...

New measurement technique will help in fight against cancer

January 26, 2010

A new technique to catch cancer early has taken an important step forward thanks to the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). NPL's 'phantoms' will ensure an exciting new screening technique can be relied upon by hospitals ...

Recommended for you

Toyota promises better mileage and ride with Prius hybrid

October 13, 2015

Toyota Motor Corp. released details for its fourth-generation Prius on Tuesday, promising that improvements in the battery, engine, wind resistance and weight mean better mileage for the world's top-selling hybrid car.

Facebook to test mobile app shopping tab

October 12, 2015

Facebook said Monday that it will begin testing a shopping tab for its mobile app as it works to ramp up advertising and online commerce offerings.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 09, 2010
"....... to demonstrate potentially harmful carbon monoxide levels to smokers. "

Yeah, that's what's keeping them from quitting. They just don't know it's bad for them. They smoke because they like it and are addicted. Is there anybody left that doesn't know about the health risks?

Aside from that, a very interesting article. How can you not appreciate any medical advancement. No matter how limited or specialized, it still has a place somewhere for someone.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.