Ketone detector – First research

This all began when I heard of Steve Gibsons work of building a ”KetoFlute” and I decided to look in to if I could build one as well. I use this blog as a note book for my initial research. From what I have found Steve talked about his ”KetoFlute” twice at the Security now! podcast.

Steve Gibson

From the transcript of theSecurity now! podcast ep 356,  June 6, 2012.

STEVE:  That's the little prototype for the ketone breathalyzer.

LEO:  [Laughing] You madman.  You've done it.  Does it work?

STEVE:  It's on its way.

LEO:  He's breadboarding a ketone analyzer.  Well, it's about time.

STEVE:  Yeah, exactly.

LEO:  Wow.

STEVE:  Because I don't have enough things on...

LEO:  What chip do you use to detect the presence of ketones?  Is there a sensor?

STEVE:  There are volatile gas sensors which will detect ethanol and also acetone.  The problem is that they all - they're very sensitive to temperature and humidity, and our breath is both hot and moist.  So the signal I'm looking for is minuscule compared to the noise, which is temperature and humidity.  So I have a second sensor which is exactly the same technology, but designed to detect methane instead.  And so the idea is that the common mode response will be humidity and temperature, and the differential response will be the content of gases that differ between the two sensors.  So anyway, I'm just at the beginning of...

LEO:  What a fun challenge.

STEVE:  ...of experimenting.  It may be that I cannot find - it may be that breath is just too hostile because of its temperature and humidity.  But I'm going to - I'm working to very quickly determine, one way or the other, because I am just so tired of - my hands are just raw from poking them in order to take blood several times a day, which I have been doing.

LEO:  Several times a day?

STEVE:  Oh, yeah, yeah, because I'm spending serious money on these  ketone blood tests in order to monitor my ketones and get a sense for where they are.  I would - I can't wait to be able to, you know, to blow into something.  And if it works, we'll, I mean, I'm not going to go into production.  People don't have to worry about me disappearing...

From the transcript of theSecurity now! podcast ep 358,  June 20, 2012.

LEO:  Ho ho ho, he's building it, ladies and gentlemen.

STEVE:  Yeah.

LEO:  You put that on your head?  What the hell?

STEVE:  You blow in there.

LEO:  For those listening, it is breadboarded.  Lots of - I see six, five pots on there.  I see a bunch of circuitry, wires.  And there is a little - there's a USB interface.  Oh, that's cool, so it's USB.  And a thing, I see a thing, I guess that you could buy that off the shelf, that you blow into.

STEVE:  Oh, no, that's a made-from-scratch...

LEO:  You made that, too.

STEVE:  It's a chamber that has the sensor located inside...

LEO:  Dude, you rock.

STEVE:  ...which is measuring - anyway.  So the point is...

LEO:  You're calling that the Ketoflute, right, as I remember.

STEVE:  The Ketoflute, yeah.  And I've invested heavily.  I've had friends blowing in it.  I mean, it's working.  But I still don't know...

LEO:  Hey, come here.  Can I get you to blow into this?

STEVE:  I still don't know if I'm going to have anything.

LEO:  Right, this is research.

STEVE:  Yeah, it's pure R&D.

LEO:  Steve, this is why we love you.  I'm getting tears in my eyes.  This is amazing.

STEVE:  I need to answer the question.  Maybe it'll work; maybe not.  But again, if I have to go, well, okay, now I know, at least I've satisfied my curiosity without needing it to be something it isn't.  So...

LEO:  You see? 

STEVE:  It's important to be a pure researcher.

LEO:  And everybody needs to have that.  If people could develop that mentality, it'd be so great.  If you don't know, investigate.  And you probably don't know.  That's the problem.  Smart people think they know.

STEVE:  Well, and that was the lesson from the Portable Dog Killer.  I just encourage people to go build something because, oh, the act of doing that teaches you so much.
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