Researchers are developing a breath analyzer that can sniff out illegal drugs and other chemicals. The device, which uses secondary electrospray ionization (SESI) technology, is among the most sensitive detectors of airborne chemicals in the world. So far, it exists only in the lab, but according to researchers at ETH Zurich, it could one day be used in hospitals and as a breathalyzer for drugs.
According to Futurity, the SESI device can identify extremely low quantities of a given chemical in the air, picking up on a mere handful of molecules out of trillions in the surrounding air. “In the first tests with the new and improved SESI measuring device, we were able to measure certain metabolic molecules in exhaled breath which scientists had not been able to detect in breath before,” explained researcher Pablo Sinues.
Researchers believe the device could have a wide range of applications, from drug detection to the study of plant fragrances. In previous tests, the SESI was used successfully to monitor drug uptake and transformation in laboratory mice, and researchers believe it could help doctors and nurses monitor hospital patients' medicine levels in the future. Since the SESI can detect so many different chemicals, its possible uses are near-endless. Sinues claims it could even be used in winemaking, determining the best possible harvest time for grapes as they ripen by sensing subtle chemical shifts.