There is growing interest in the use of biomarkers in Exhaled Breath Condensate (EBC) and evidence to show these 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, disposable collection device to use in wide scale research and eventually for a commercial product and the challenge was to develop a solution for this.
Firstly Maddison embarked on finding an appropriate engineering solution to rapidly cool the exhaled breath in order 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 into for patients with lung damage.
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 within a reasonable period of time. It is very low cost ($3 per unit in volume) and compact for bulk transport, so suitable for home or developing country use. The device can be further developed to integrate a diagnostic test within the unit and companies with an interest in this are encouraged to get in contact.