Feeds

UK chemists detect air fingerprints

I love the smell of VOC in the morning

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Chemists at Leicester University have developed a new electronic nose, a piece of kit that can identify the components of a sample of air, including perfume or an individual's breath, in less than a minute.

The team, led by Dr Paul Monks, Reader in Chemistry, and Dr Andrew Ellis, Senior Lecturer, has developed a new test for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in air.

The project began as an investigation into urban pollution, but the team believes it will have applications in medicine and forensics as well.

Dr Monks commented: "The instrument we have developed has the potential to undertake forensic-like investigation of air. In effect we can capture a ‘fingerprint’ of the air composition, and this has many potential uses beyond urban air monitoring, including medical diagnosis and the development of electronic noses."

The body naturally produces VOCs and the presence or absence of these in a patient's breath can indicate specific diseases. A decaying body also produces several specific VOCs. Having equipment that can detect and identify these quickly and accurately could help police search teams.

Dr Monks said that chemical plants, oil refineries, gas platforms, vehicle and aircraft emissions, are all major sources of atmospheric VOCs. They are also emitted by many consumer products such as paints, solvents, glues, newspapers, and cosmetics.

Many of these VOCs are toxic or carcinogenic, he went on, an although they are usually only present in very small quantities, human safety levels are often exceeded in poorly ventilated buildings.

"Increasing concern about the impact of VOCs on human health is feeding a growing demand for devices to detect these compounds," he said.

The team is developing a number of science projects to further test their detection technique. One project they have planned is the ultra-sensitive detection of short-lived atmospheric species that control photochemical smog formation. ®

Related stories

Medical imaging research awarded £4.5m
Singapore quarantines 70 after Taiwan confirms SARS case
Legality of online pharmacies questioned

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.