Prototype instrument employing a microsensor array for the analysis of organic vapors in exhaled breath

William A. Groves, Edward T. Zellers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


A prototype portable instrument capable of selectively measuring organic vapors in breath at low and sub-ppm concentrations was tested. The instrument employs an array of four polymer-coated surface-acoustic-wave (SAW) resonators and microprocessor-controlled pumps, valves, and heating elements for preconcentration and thermal desorption of breath samples Response data are passed to an external personal computer for processing. Sensor responses are based on the reversible changes in the mass and viscoelasticity of the polymeric coatings accompanying vapor sorption. Calibrations were performed for perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and methoxyflurane at 100% relative humidity using 15 mg of TenaxTA® as the preconcentrator adsorbent. Analyses were then conducted of 250-mL breath samples prepared in Tedlar® bags spiked with one of the three solvents within the range of 2 to 18 ppm. Differences between concentrations measured using the prototype instrument and those measured by gas chromatography ranged from -6 to 17% for perchloroethylene. Similar results were obtained for trichloroethylene and methoxyflurane with larger differences occurring at lower concentrations. Estimated limits of detection of 0.7, 0.6, and 4 ppm were achieved for perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and methoxyflurane, respectively. These preliminary results demonstrate the feasibility of using SAW sensor technology for field breath analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1103-1108
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Industrial Hygiene Association Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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