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IONICON Illustrates Indoor Air Chemistry and Crowd Breath

In September the International Association for Breath Research (IABR)’s Breath Summit 2019 took place in Leicestershire, UK. IONICON participated as an exhibitor and with scientific contributions, also conducting a crowd breath experiment. Numerous excellent talks covered the whole spectrum of breath analysis could be enjoyed by the attendees.

PTR-TOF 6000 X2 with dedicated BET breath sampling inlet system

Several presented PTR-TOF as their main tool for research, such as VOC analysis – a trailblazer in translational research, by Wolfram Miekisch, Beyond PTR – Additional ionization modes in PTR-TOFMS and their use in breath gas analysis, by Jens Herbig and Real‐time breath analysis during exhaustive exercise on a cycle ergometer, by Giovanni Pugliese.

IONICON PTR-TOF were not only presented on slides but also live at the IONICON booth. On a PTR-TOF 6000X2 with a BET breath sampling inlet participants could test their breath and experience the vast amount of data real-time breath analysis can reveal from a single exhalation with high resolution and sensitivity.

An integral part of the IABR breath summits is ample time for discussion, networking … and fun. This year’s social event featured a splendid conference dinner, held in the re-arranged main lecture room, followed by a party in the central conference area, where also the exhibition was located.

An intriguing feature of a real time analyzers is the ability to continuously monitor VOC trace concentrations – with no more effort than pressing a button. This allowed a very simply crowd breath experiment. The PTR-TOF continuously recorded room-air concentrations in the central conference area, from the arrival of attendees in the evening, the aperitif, the dinner held in the next room, during the party and continued until the next morning, when the last day of the conference commenced.

The PTR-TOF recorded complete spectra and we have extracted four of the many VOCs that show interesting signals. An increase in ethanol is observed immediately when the bar opened for aperitifs followed by a decrease when attendees went to dinner in the adjacent room. Ethanol concentration increased again when the crowd returned for more drinks and peaked around midnight directly correlated to the mood in the room. Then it took a whole night for the room-air Ethanol concentration to be cleared.

During the evening acetone and isoprene, common metabolites in breath, show a similar trend as ethanol. A contrasting picture is seen the next morning, where acetone and isoprene again increase with human presence, but ethanol (fortunately) does not. For Siloxane, an emission that can be attributed to personal care products, a peaks is observed when attendees arrived for the sessions in the morning, but is even more pronounced when they arrived in the evening for the social event.

This rather simple experiment shows an interesting link between indoor air chemistry and breath analysis topics. It also underlines the high value of an IONICON PTR-TOFMS instrument as versatile and extremely sensitive “gold standard” instrument in various overlapping applications when it gets to quantitative real-time analysis of dynamic processes.



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