A Very Portable Device that Detects Bad Breath

Because we humans don’t solely interact with computers—yet, almost there!—we still have to communicate face to face. And things can go sour real quick if somebody has terrible breath. Thankfully, scientists have now invented a tiny device that can detect bad breath. All we can say is: do you have any mints?

The American Chemical Society (ACS) recently announced the new, experimental gadget, which Korean researchers Kak Namkoong, Il-Doo Kim, and their colleagues developed. The researchers note that the goal of the device is ultimately to detect halitosis, a.k.a. bad breath, in order to prevent dental diseases.

An illustration of a woman smelling her own bad breath in her palm.


While some already available devices measure tiny amounts of hydrogen sulfide—a signature molecule of halitosis—ACS says they require air to be collected and tested in a lab using expensive instruments. We’re not entirely sure about the accuracy of that claim. Quick sleuthing showed similar gadgets that use phone apps.

Regardless of the claim, this particular detector uses a novel combination of substances to detect hydrogen sulfide. For the combo the scientists used alkali metal salt and platinum nanoparticles with tungsten. They then “electrospun” the particles into nanofibers that work in a way such that their electrical conductivity changes when they interact with hydrogen sulfide.

A diagram of teeth and the plaque that can cause halitosis.


As for the results? The scientists say their device correctly identified bad breath 86% of the time. That’s a pretty good percentage. They also say their sensor could work easily with a small device form factor. Although, unfortunately, we couldn’t find any prototype illustrations of the device. For now, we’ll all have to rely on brushing our teeth and carrying around Altoids. There are also a lot of cyberpunk masks that will simply blast your horrible throat stank back up your own nostrils. That will for sure let you know you’re having some issues.

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