Thumb -sized devices quickly ‘sniff’ bad breath

If you forgot about candy on a first date, scientists have created a thumb -sized prototype device that quickly ‘sniffs’ bad breath.

Invented by experts in South Korea, this device detects the presence of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) – a gas that makes breath stink.

After exhaling into the device, the presence of H2S on the breath can be indicated on the accompanying smartphone app.

In addition to social problems, bad breath is a natural warning sign, potentially indicating a serious dental problem.

Pictures from a Korean expert paper show how this tool can provide rapid detection of hydrogen sulfide in human breath

Pictures from a Korean expert paper show how this tool can provide rapid detection of hydrogen sulfide in human breath

The study was conducted by experts at Samsung Electronics and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, South Korea.

‘Continuous monitoring of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in human breath for the early stages of the diagnosis of halitosis [bad breath] very important for the prevention of dental disease, ‘they said in their paper.

“This study offers the possibility of direct, highly reliable and rapid detection of H2S in real human breath without the need for collection or filter equipment.”

H2S is created in the body in small doses – and is probably best known to carry The stench of rotten eggs.

H2S and foul -smelling sulfur byproducts are excreted as waste by bacteria on the tongue and below the gum line.

Unfortunately for those around us, they are present in the air we breathe, making good oral hygiene very important on a first date or job interview to deal with odors.


Contrary to popular belief, you can’t hold your breath by blowing your hand out. It doesn’t work, according to dentist and bacteriologist Dr. Howard Katz, founder of The Breath Company.

Your body is designed so that you cannot detect your own smell and your senses are accustomed to the smell of your own breath.

This is a process called acclimation that we have developed over centuries of evolution – it helps us to be able to distinguish strange odors quickly without being burdened by our own odors.

You exhale your breath continuously, until you get used to your own smell.

Previously, some devices were able to measure small amounts of H2S, but they required exhaled air to be collected and tested on expensive instruments in the laboratory, which was not feasible for users.

Previous studies have shown that when some metal oxides react with sulfur -containing gases, their electrical conductivity changes.

And when a metal oxide is paired with a precious metal catalyst, it can be more sensitive and selective.

Therefore, to develop a real -time small -odor breath analysis tool, the team wanted to find the right combination of materials that would produce the fastest and strongest response to H2S in the air blown directly into it.

The researchers mixed sodium chloride (an alkali metal salt) and platinum (a precious metal catalyst) nanoparticles with tungsten.

They then channel the solution into nanofibres which they heat, converting tungsten into its metal oxide form.

Electrospinning is a method of producing ultra -fine fibers as small as one billion one meter in diameter (nanometers).

In the initial tests, composites made from equal parts of each metal had the greatest reactivity to hydrogen sulfide, which was measured by the team as a large decrease in electrical resistance in less than 30 seconds.

Although these nanofibres react with some sulfur -containing gases, they are most sensitive to H2S.

This produced a reaction 9.5 and 2.7 times greater than with dimethyl sulfide or methyl mercaptane, respectively, which also contain sulfur.

In addition to social problems, bad breath is a natural warning sign, potentially indicating a serious dental problem

As with social problems, bad breath is a natural warning sign, potentially indicating a serious dental problem

Finally, the team coated interconnected gold electrodes with nanofiber fibers and combined gas sensors with humidity, temperature and pressure sensors into their small prototype.

The device identifies bad breath 86 percent of the time when a person’s breath is exhaled directly onto it.

Although this tool has not yet been commercialized, it can be inserted into a very small device such as a keychain for quick and easy bad breath self -diagnosis.

The system is further detailed in the team’s paper, published in the journal ACS Nano.

Causes of Bad Breath (HALITOSIS)

There are a large number of possible causes of halitosis:

Poor oral hygiene

This is the most common reason. Bacteria that grow on your teeth – especially between them – as well as your tongue and gums, can produce an unpleasant -smelling gas. These bacteria are also responsible for gum disease and tooth decay.

Food and drinks

Eating highly flavored foods, such as garlic, onions and spices, may make your breath smelly. Strong -smelling beverages, such as coffee and alcohol, can also cause bad breath.

Bad breath caused by food and drink is usually temporary. Good dental hygiene will also help.


In addition to making your breath stink, smoking stains your teeth, irritates your gums, and reduces your taste.

It can also affect the development of gum disease, the leading cause of bad breath.

Poor nutrition

Improper diet, fasting, and low -carbohydrate diets are possible causes of bad breath. They cause the body to break down fat, which produces chemicals called ketones that can be smelled on your breath.


These include: nitrates – these are sometimes used to treat angina; some chemotherapy drugs; and sedatives (phenothazin).

If the medication you are taking causes bad breath, your doctor may be able to recommend an alternative.

Medical conditions

In rare cases, bad breath can be caused by certain medical conditions. In dry mouth (xerostomia), the flow and composition of saliva may be affected.

Dry mouth can sometimes be caused by problems with the salivary glands or by breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.

In some cases, gastrointestinal conditions can also cause bad breath. For example, bacterial infections of the lining of the stomach and small intestine (H. pylori infection) and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) have been associated with bad breath.

Other medical conditions that can cause bad breath include diabetes and infections of the lungs, throat, or nose – for example, bronchiectasis, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and sinusitis.


Some people believe they have bad breath when they don’t. This psychological condition is called halitophobia.

Source: NHS Choices

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