Toshiba just took the wraps off a medical breathalyzer that the company says can diagnose diseases by analyzing the air a patient exhales. "Bad breath" just took on a whole new meaning.
The company's breath analyzer prototype blasts a patient's exhaled breath with a quantum cascade laser. Gaseous compounds in the patient's breath absorb energy from the laser, then emit the energy in measurable forms that are unique to each compound. The energy emitted is then analyzed, a process known as spectroscopy.
Currently, Toshiba says the device can detect acetone (an indicator of diabetes), acetaldehyde (made when the body metabolizes alcohol, and responsible for hangovers) and methane (whose levels indicate a patient's intestinal health). In addition to disease monitoring, the company envisions the device being used to guide diet, exercise, and nutritional support.