By simply breathing into a small gadget today's technological innovation enables smartphone users to diagnose serious diseases such as diabetes or lung cancer quickly and effectively.
A nanofiber breathing sensor is mounted on the phones. Il-Doo Kim, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Department at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), and his research team have recently published a cover paper entitled "Thin-Wall Assembled SnO2 Fibers Functionalized by Catalytic Pt Nanoparticles and their Superior Exhaled Breath-Sensing Properties for the Diagnosis of Diabetes," in an academic journal, Advanced Functional Materials
(May 20th issue), on the development of a highly sensitive exhaled breath sensor by using hierarchical SnO2 fibers that are assembled from wrinkled thin SnO2 nanotubes.
In the paper, the research team presented a morphological evolution of SnO2 fibers, called micro phase-separations, which takes place between polymers and other dissolved solutes when varying the flow rate of an electrospinning solution feed and applying a subsequent heat treatment afterward.
The morphological change results in nanofibers that are shaped like an open cylinder inside which thin-film SnO2 nanotubes are layered and then rolled up. A number of elongated pores ranging from 10 nanometers (nm) to 500 nm in length along the fiber direction were formed on the surface of the SnO2 fibers, allowing exhaled gas molecules to easily permeate the fibers. The inner and outer wall of SnO2 tubes is evenly coated with catalytic platinum (Pt) nanoparticles. According to the research team, highly porous SnO2 fibers, synthesized by eletrospinning at a high flow rate, showed five-fold higher acetone responses than that of the dense SnO2 nanofibers created under a low flow rate. The catalytic Pt coating shortened the fibers' gas response time dramatically as well.