The paper presents one of the laser absorption spectroscopy techniques as an effective tool for sensitive analysis of trace gas species in human breath. Characterization of nitric oxide, carbonyl sulphide and ethane, and the selection of their absorption lines are described. Experiments with some biomarkers showed that detection of pathogenic changes at the molecular level is possible using this technique. Thanks to cavity enhanced spectroscopy application, detection limits at the ppb-level and short measurements time (<3 s) were achieved. Absorption lines of reference samples of the selected volatile biomarkers were probed using a distributed feedback quantum cascade laser and a tunable laser system consisting of an optical parametric oscillator and difference frequency generator. Setup using the first source provided a detection limit of 30 ppb for nitric oxide and 250 ppb for carbonyl sulphide. During experiments employing a second laser, detection limits of 0.9 ppb and 0.3 ppb were obtained for carbonyl sulphide and ethane, respectively. The conducted experiments show that this type of diagnosis would significantly increase chances for effective therapy of some diseases. Additionally, it offers non-invasive and real time measurements, high sensitivity and selectivity as well as minimizing discomfort for patients. For that reason, such sensors can be used in screening for early detection of serious diseases.
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