Tunable-laser absorption spectroscopy in the mid-IR spectral region is a sensitive analytical technique for trace-gas quantification. The detection of nitric oxide (NO) in exhaled breath is of particular interest in the diagnosis of lower-airway inflammation associated with a number of lung diseases and illnesses. A gas analyzer based on a continuous-wave mid-IR quantum cascade laser operating at ∼5.2 μm and on off-axis integrated cavity output spectroscopy (ICOS) has been developed to measure NO concentrations in human breath. A compact sample cell, 5.3 cm in length and with a volume of <80 cm3, that is suitable for on-line and off-line measurements during a single breath cycle, has been designed and tested. A noise-equivalent (signal-to-noise ratio of 1) sensitivity of 10 parts in 109 by volume (ppbv) of NO was achieved. The combination of ICOS with wavelength modulation resulted in a 2-ppbv noise-equivalent sensitivity. The total data acquisition and averaging time was 15 s in both cases. The feasibility of detecting NO in expired human breath as a potential noninvasive medical diagnostic tool is discussed.
© 2004 Optical Society of AmericaPDF Article