You can see a scientist, who is working on the laboratory setup on the development of an ion mobility spectrometry demonstrator for non-invasive diagnostics for the detection of biomarker VOCs.
A scientist is working on the laboratory setup on the development of an ion mobility spectrometry demonstrator for non-invasive diagnostics for the detection of biomarker VOCs.

Development of an IMS demonstrator

Measurement on the laboratory setup

Ion Mobility Spectrometry

Non-Invasive Diagnostics of Diseases: Detection of Biomarker VOCs with Ion Mobility Spectrometry

Our goal is to develop novel methods for the non-invasive diagnostics of diseases. Therefore, we develop a laboratory demonstrator that can detect very low concentrations of gaseous biomarkers in breath or in headspace above urine, sweat, etc.

Biomarker VOCs in Diagnostics

One approach for the non-invasive diagnostics of many diseases is the analysis of gaseous biomarkers, i.e., disease-specific, volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A change of the metabolism of diseased, infected or altered body cells might lead to a concentration change of the VOC profile or even the production of disease-specific VOCs. During an infection with bacteria or fungi additional VOCs of the microorganisms occur. The VOCs are emitted by breath, urine, stool as well as skin and can be detected metrologically. Challenging are the very low concentrations of the relevant compounds and their individual measurement, evaluation and assignment.

At present, the diagnostic of many diseases is carried out using invasive sampling and uncomfortable or even painful procedures: blood sampling, biopsies, nasopharyngeal swap sampling. Some diseases like Parkinson’s or cancer are often diagnosed when the symptoms are more pronounced and the disease is already in an advanced stage. In addition, the detection and identification of specific pathogens from infectious diseases takes hours or even days and requires an existing laboratory infrastructure. The detection of biomarker VOCs can improve the situation!

Measured IMS spectrum of the headspace of a biological sample. A number of characteristic peaks can be seen.
© Fraunhofer IZI
Measured IMS spectrum of the headspace of a biological sample. A number of characteristic peaks can be seen.

Recognize diseases by smell with Ion Mobility Spectrometry

The core of the miniaturized ion mobility spectrometer to be developed is the novel FAIMS chip with a dimension of approx. 5 mm by 15 mm.
The core of the miniaturized ion mobility spectrometer to be developed is the novel FAIMS chip with a dimension of approx. 5 mm by 15 mm.

The goal of this project is to develop a novel system for detecting gaseous biomarker VOCs for biomedical diagnostics. The core of the targeted system is a miniaturized ion mobility spectrometer (IMS). This will allow a simple and fast detection of relevant VOCs. Within only a couple of minutes, concrete indications of the disease could be retrieved on-site and without pain through a non-invasively collected sample (breath, urine, stool, sweat). The demonstrator developed in this project will provide a basis for a future device development together with interested industrial partners. In detail, the following tasks are being addressed:

  • Identification of specific requirements of selected applications
  • Enhancement of the miniaturized IMS concept provided by Fraunhofer IPMS
  • System development and setup of a laboratory demonstrator, including the necessary gas pre-treatment and sampling
  • Proof-of-concept addressing a simplified application scenario
  • Development of a data analysis software
The Illustration of the IMS demonstrator with the integrated FAIMS chip is shown here.
© Fraunhofer IPMS
The Illustration of the IMS demonstrator with the integrated FAIMS chip is shown here.

Explanation of the IMS measurement process

Video realization © 3D Agentur Berlin, Dirk Puder & Stefan Loth, GbR

Cooperation Possibilities

Would you like to test these exciting applications together with us? Do you have technologies that enhance our system? Please feel free to contact us!