Researchers developing breathalyzer device to detect COVID-19

mhuson COVID-19, Faculty Awards, General, Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability

A research team at The Ohio State University is developing a breathalyzer device to detect COVID-19.


The device could offer a quick and easy alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs, a more common means to test for the causative agent of COVID-19. Drawing from just a single exhaled breath, the device is designed to enable rapid detection of biomarkers of the coronavirus infection.


The team developing the breathalyzer is led by principal investigator Perena Gouma, the Edward Orton, Jr., Chair in Ceramic Engineering and director of the Advanced Ceramics Research Laboratory. She joined Ohio State in 2017 through the Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability Discovery Theme, operated by the Institute for Materials Research.


The project recently received a $199,359 National Science Foundation (NSF) EAGER grant. The funding mechanism supports early-stage but likely transformative projects deemed potentially “high risk-high payoff,” meaning investigators are expected to take radical approaches and novel perspectives in their research. Andrew Bowman, associate professor in Veterinary Preventive Medicine, is a co-investigator on the project.


“Breath analysis is not really a technique that is used widely in the medical field yet, so it is considered early-stage work,” Gouma said. “[We] have a sensor device that detects nitric oxide and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in breath and can be used to tell you about the onset of an infectious disease.”


Gouma invented the handheld single exhale breathalyzer in 2004 at Stony Brook University (SUNY at Stony Brook). More recently, she demonstrated a device for infectious diseases, such as the flu.


The COVID-19 breathalyzer is currently being tested in clinical trials.


Read more at Ohio State News.