New Toshiba Medical Breathalyzer Sniffs Out Illness, Not Drunkenness

Diagnosing illness just got easier and, well, breezier thanks to an innovative medical breathalyzer from Japan's Toshiba Corporation. The dishwasher-sized device, currently in the testing stage, is able to detect a wide range of illnesses within 30 seconds after a user blows into the machine.

“We see great potential for the breath analyzer,” explained Naoko Toyoshima, a chief specialist in Toshiba's corporate New Business Development Division, “from the health enhancement of exercise regimes and nutritional supplements through to diagnostics. We will promote more collaboration with universities and hospitals in order to build a knowledge base for breath analysis and to support wide ranging and practical application.”

The heart of the breath analyzer is an infrared laser developed previously by Toshiba to assist in proprietary gas analysis technologies and semiconductor manufacturing. When a user exhales into the device through an attached hose, the new semiconductor laser emits a beam in the mid-infrared band of 3 to 10um where a large number of chemicals are known to be absorbed. These chemicals include methane, acetaldehyde and acetone, the latter of which has been found to be an indicator of obesity and diabetes.

Toshiba states that improvements in the technology will enable the device to sniff out, as it were, additional gases that may alert doctors to the presence of asthma and stomach ulcers. Pending the results of additional testing undertaken in conjunction with Waseda University and incorporation of improved gas analysis technology, Toshiba's medical breathalyzer should be ready for real-world use sometime in 2015. (via Tech On! and Yahoo Japan)