PhD Studentship Engineering Point-of-care Breath Diagnostic Electrochemical Based Tools

Faculty of Science and Engineering

Studentships awarded by the Faculty are for a fixed period of 3 years and cover fees (Home/EU only) and a tax free stipend of £12,000 per year.

Due to funding restrictions only applications from those students who qualify as Home or EU will be considered. Applicants should hold (or expect to obtain) a minimum upper-second honours degree in a relevant subject.

Project Title and Summary

Engineering Point-of-care Breath Diagnostic Electrochemical Based Tools

This full time 12-month project (commencing October 2013) involves the disciplines of electrochemistry, analytical and physical chemistry and involves the design and fabrication of screen-printed derived sensors.

The sensing of trace analytes in exhaled breath potentially offers a non-invasive window into human physiology and diseased states together with a monitor of the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions. The detection of trace gases in exhaled air/ breath and to quantify them to an accuracy useful for medical diagnosis is a technical challenge which has only been realised during the last part of the 20th century.

The analytical and engineering challenge in order to exploit breath analysis for medical purposes is to be able to identify and quantify to an acceptable accuracy and precision target molecules that occur within breath that are well established (clinically via traditional gold standard instrumentation such as Mass Spec) differentiating between those that are normally present in the breath of healthy persons and those that relate to particular diseased states. An even greater challenge is then to realise on-line real time analyses such that the results are immediately available to the clinician to assist rapid diagnosis. This can already be achieved using hand-held, low-cost instruments, which are now widely used to measure H2 and CO in exhaled breath, and it seems certain that as other important breath biomarkers are recognised using the more sophisticated analytical techniques hand-held devices will be developed. This project will develop electrochemical based breath sensors based upon screen-printed derived sensors for a range of new compounds within exhaled breath/air.

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Project aims and objectives


To engineer electrochemical sensors that can detect medically useful analytes within breath that can be used in point-of-care diagnostics to identify diseases and their treatment; effectively a “medical breathalyzer”.

Objectives: i) The design of sensitive and accurate sensors based upon screen printing (in a similar fashion that commercial glucose sensors are produced) for ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and mono-nitrogen oxides; ii) design and engineering of the sensors into a proof-of-concept device that allows a person to breathe into a device that will allow the analytes to be measured with the bespoke sensors; iii) benchmark against gold standard mass spectrometry.

Specific requirements of the project

We are looking for a candidate with an BSc(H) degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject related to Chemistry. Prior experience of electrochemistry and screen-printed sensors would be desirable, but not essential as full training will be given. Good laboratory skills/background in Analytical and Physical Chemistry are essential.

Supervisory team

Dr Craig Banks (MMU, Lead Supervisor/DoS), Dr Beatriz Maciá Ruiz (MMU) and Dr Chris Rego (MMU).

The project is aligned to the Dalton Research Institute and for more information on the research team and institute visit

How to apply visit

Closing Date: 30 September 2013 ·

Applications received after this date will not be considered.

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