There is growing interest in the use of biomarkers present in Exhaled Breath Condensate (EBC). It is hoped that biomarkers in the fluid can be used to detect conditions such as Lung Cancer, Asthma, Acid Reflux and Tuberculosis. As well as diagnostics, it can also be used for disease management at home for conditions such as COPD. The market lacks a low-cost, easy to use, disposable collection device which can be used in research and point of care diagnostics.
Maddison embarked on finding an appropriate engineering solution to rapidly cool the exhaled breath to retain and extract the condensate. After understanding the core physics behind the challenge, we did a series of fast turnaround, iterative prototypes and tests to optimise the format. Challenges such as extracting condensate that had frozen on the cooling surface and getting the right valve characteristics were overcome. A prime objective was to make the device very low cost which was achieved with low cost materials, such as cardboard and vacuum formed plastics. Usability challenges included making the device intuitive to use and easy to breathe through for patients with partial lung function.
The solution was a very compact device that can be placed in a domestic freezer a few hours prior to use and then removed and used as required by the patient. It is very low cost ($3 per unit in volume) and compact for bulk transport and storage, so suitable for home use. The device can be further developed to integrate a suitable disposable diagnostic test sensor and parties with an interest in this are encouraged to get in contact.