Nanomaterial-based sensors for detection of disease by volatile organic compounds

Nanomedicine (Lond). 2013 May;8(5):785-806. doi: 10.2217/nnm.13.64.


The importance of developing new diagnostic and detection technologies for the growing number of clinical challenges is rising each year. Here, we present a concise, yet didactic review on a new diagnostics frontier based on the detection of disease-related volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by means of nanomaterial-based sensors. Nanomaterials are ideal for such sensor arrays because they are easily fabricated, chemically versatile and can be integrated into currently available sensing platforms. Following a general introduction, we provide a brief description of the VOC-related diseases concept. Then, we focus on detection of VOC-related diseases by selective and crossreactive sensing approaches, through chemical, optical and mechanical transducers incorporating the most important classes of nanomaterials. Selected examples of the integration of nanomaterials into selective sensors and crossreactive sensor arrays are given. We conclude with a brief discussion on the integration possibilities of different types of nanomaterials into sensor arrays, and the expected outcomes and limitations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetone / analysis
  • Ammonia / analysis
  • Animals
  • Biosensing Techniques / instrumentation
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures / instrumentation
  • Equipment Design
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / analysis
  • Nanostructures* / chemistry
  • Nitric Oxide / analysis
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*


  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Acetone
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen Peroxide