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7 October 2005 Photoacoustic sensor for VOCs: first step towards a lung cancer breath test
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Development of new optical sensor technologies has a major impact on the progression of diagnostic methods. Specifically, the optical analysis of breath is an extraordinarily promising technique. Spectroscopic sensors for the non-invasive 13C-breath tests (the Urea Breath Test for detection of Helicobacter pylori is most prominent) are meanwhile well established. However, recent research and development go beyond gastroenterological applications. Sensitive and selective detection of certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in a patient's breath, could enable the diagnosis of diseases that are very difficult to diagnose with contemporary techniques. For instance, an appropriate VOC biomarker for early-stage bronchial carcinoma (lung cancer) is n-butane (C4H10). We present a new optical detection scheme for VOCs that employs an especially compact and simple set-up based on photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS). This method makes use of the transformation of absorbed modulated radiation into a sound wave. Employing a wavelength-modulated distributed feedback (DFB) diode laser and taking advantage of acoustical resonances of the sample cell, we performed very sensitive and selective measurements on butane. A detection limit for butane in air in the ppb range was achieved. In subsequent research the sensitivity will be successively improved to match the requirements of the medical application. Upon optimization, our photoacoustic sensor has the potential to enable future breath tests for early-stage lung cancer diagnostics.
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Marcus Wolff, Hinrich G. Groninga, Matthias Dressler, and Hermann Harde "Photoacoustic sensor for VOCs: first step towards a lung cancer breath test", Proc. SPIE 5862, Diagnostic Optical Spectroscopy in Biomedicine III, 58620G (7 October 2005);

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