Meter to Monitor Ketoacidosis Via Breath

Portable, simple and inexpensive test to alert diabetics to elevated levels of Ketones, without the need for blood or urine testing.

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The goal of this project is to develop a low cost, non-invasive, meter to alert insulin dependent diabetics to the presence of dangerous levels of ketones and prevent the development of Keto-Acidosis.
Presently, over 1 million people, in the U.S. alone, are insulin dependent diabetics and about 40 thousand additional people are diagnosed each year. Each year there is over $14 billion dollars spent on treating insulin dependent diabetes and lost wages due to it.
Diabetic Keto-Acidosis is the most common cause of death for young people diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes.
Acetone concentration in breath is directly correlated to blood ketone levels and as a result it is a useful, non-invasive, target for monitoring the development of Diabetic Keto-Acidosis.
This project is completely open source, for both hardware and software.

Diabetic Keto-Acidosis remains the leading cause of death for younger insulin dependent diabetics. This projects aim is to help prevent the development of Diabetic Ketoacidosis through the use of an inexpensive (free of costly consumables, like test strips) and non-invasive testing method.

Our bodies produce ketones (through the breakdown of fatty acids in the liver) when glucose is unavailable to the bodies cells.  This occurs, either under fasting conditions (essentially low intake of carbohydrates) or when there is insufficient insulin to transport glucose into the bodies cells.  The breakdown of fatty acids produces the ketone bodies - aceto-acetate and beta-hydroxybutyrate, both of which are acidic and lower blood pH, when they reach high levels. To maintain blood pH levels acetoacetate is excreted through the kidney's and also the lungs (as acetone - resulting in the fruity odor on the breath of those in ketosis).  Diabetic Keto-Acidosis is most likely to occur when individuals are sick, stressed, have blood glucose over 300 or in women, who are pregnant, with any type of diabetes.

Traditionally Keto-Acidosis is tested for using urine test strips, though, more recently there are meters that can test for ketones in blood.  Each of these methods have their drawbacks

  • Urine test strips for ketones are around $0.20 each and measure acetoacetate excreted by the kidneys.
  • Blood test strips measure Beta-Hydroxybutyrate.

Currently there are no commercially available devices for measuring breath acetone for monitoring the development of Diabetic Keto-Acidosis

Three major design challenges that this project aims to address:

  1. Calibrating Ceramic Metal Oxide gas sensors.
  2. Discriminating between acetone and ethanol.
  3. Removing moisture from exhaled air (normally exhaled air has a humidity level of 95%) without without effecting acetone concentration.

This project strives to use "off the shelf" parts, with the objective of making it easy for others to reproduce.

Developing a reproducible method of calibration for Ceramic Metal Oxide gas sensors will make it easier other hardware developers to accurately use these types of sensors - while it is easy to adjust the sensitivity of these sensors there is currently no method (that I've found) for calibrating readings with actual concentrations of the target gas.

Open Source License - GNU General Public License (v3)

Open Hardware License - all schematics, gerbers, etc. will be open (once these are done I will submit them to

  • 1 × TGS822 Ceramic Metal Oxide sensor
  • 1 × MQ-3 Ceramic Metal Oxide sensot
  • 1 × Desicant Drierite (calcium sulfate) - looking at various mesh sizes
  • 1 × OLED I2C display
  • 1 × LiPo Battery cell

View all 6 components

  • Work on removing Water Vapor from breath

    Tom Meehan05/03/2018 at 05:13 0 comments

    I'm presently focused on desiccants that are non reactive with acetone, but absorb water, are easy to regenerate and inexpensive.

    Currently I'm looking at Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts) and Calcium Sulfate (Drierite). I don't have any Drierite on hand but I do have Epsom Salts.

    I put together a chamber with a DHT11 sensor to test the effectiveness of drying breath samples in real time.  I'll update this project with my results, along with pictures and video.

  • Research References

    Tom Meehan04/23/2018 at 21:20 0 comments

    This represents my current research references for building a non invasive test for measuring ketone levels in insulin dependent diabetics.

    Journal References : 

    (working to complete)

    1. Thati, A., Biswas, A., Chowdhury, A. R., Say, T. K. (2015). Breath Acetone-Based Non-Invasive Detection of Blood Glucose Levels. International Journal on Smart Sensing and Intelligent Systems, 8(2), 1244-1260.
    2. Rydosz, A. (2015). A Negative Correlation Between Blood Glucose and Acetone Measured in Healthy and Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus Patient Breath. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 9(4), 881-884.
    3. Suchorska-Wozniak, P. (2017). Detection of Acetone Using Resistive Gas Sensors. PhD Interdisciplinary Journal, x(x), 201-206. Zvyagin, A. A., Shaposhnik, A. V., Ryabtsev, S. V., Shaposhnik, D. A., Vasilév, A. A., Nazarenko, I. N. (2010). Determination of Acetone and Ethanol Vapors Using Semiconductor Sensors. Journal of Analytic Chemistry, 65(1), 94-98.
    4. Zhang, Y., Zhao, J., Du, T., Zhu, Z., Zhang, J., Liu, Q. (2017) A Gas Sensor Array for the Simultaneous Detection of Multiple VOC's. Scientific Reports |7:1960| DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-02150-z
    5. Fine, G. F., Cavanagh, L. M., Afonja, A., Binions, R. (2010). Metal Oxide-Semiconductor Gas Sensors in Enviornmental Monitoring. Sensors, 10, 5469-5502 doi:10.3390/s100605469
    6. Anderson, J. C. (2015). Measuring Breath Acetone for Monitoring Fat Loss: Review. Obesity, 23(12), 2327-2334.
    7. Szulczynski, B., Gebiki, J. (2017). Currently Commercially Available Chemical Sensors Employed for Detection of Volatile Organic Compounds in Outdoor and Indoor Air. Enviornments, 4(21) doi:10.3390/enviornments4010021
    8. Kao, K., Hsu, M., Chang, Y., Gwo, S. and Yeh, J. A. (2012). A Sub-ppm Acetone Gas Sensor for Diabetes Detection Using 10 nm Thick Ultrathin InN FETs. Sensors,12, 7157-7168; doi:10.3390/s120607157
    9. Shaposhnika, A., Zviagin, A., Sizaska, E., Ryabtsevb, S., Vasiliev, A., Shaposhnik, D. (2014). Acetone and ethanol selective detection by a single MOX-sensor. Procedia Engineering 87, 1051 – 1054.
    10. Wang, C. C., Weng, Y. C., Chou, T. C., (2007). Acetone sensor using lead foil as working electrode. Sensors and Actuators B 122, 591–595
    11. Galassetti, P. R., Novak, B., Nemet, D., Rose-Gottron, C., Copper, D. M., Meinardi, S., Newcomb, R., Zaldivar, F., Blake, D. R., (2005). Breath Ethanol and Acetone as Indicators of Serum Glucose Levels: An Initial Report. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, 7(1), 115-124.
    12. Musa-Veloso, K., Likhodii, S. S., and Cunnane, S. C., (2002). Breath acetone is a reliable indicator of ketosis in adults consuming ketogenic meals. Am J Clin Nutr,76, 65–70.
    13. Ruzsányi1, V., and Kalapos, M. P., (2017). Breath acetone as a potential marker in clinical practice. J. Breath Res. 11 024002

    Websites/Blogs, etc. :

    1.  An Arduino Based Ketosis Detector (for detecting dietary induced ketosis)
    2. Arduino Breathalyzer: Calibrating the MQ-3 Alcohol Sensor
    3. Ketone and Blood Glucose Monitoring System (blood and strip based test for blood ketone levels)

View all 2 project logs

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david wrote 08/05/2018 at 00:46 point

Recommend looking at this company: They redistribute a major Asian medical device manufacturer's product in the US. It measures both blood glucose and ketones, with two different strips. When measuring glucose, also measure the total hemoglobin and hematocrit values. Their key message is the constant ketone strip supply at $1 each. There are no other companies on the US market doing this at the moment. Should the reason be avoiding DKA or on keto diet this company delivers a workable, sustainable, reliable and I think cheap ketone measurement. 

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rene wrote 05/08/2018 at 11:05 point

Hi, there is a commercial product, maybe have a look at They use a gas sensor as well. If you ask the right questions (for example how they get rid of the water ) it could help a bit if they tell and if they even have fixed it ;) I could read different experiences about this device and the high price was reason I didn't get one.

What about analysing the IR spectrum? Acetone has a good marker in the spectrum and can be distinguished from water or other gases. Maybe the right light source or the sensor could be the problem?

Great project, keep on :)

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John Evans wrote 04/28/2018 at 22:29 point

I spoke with a friend of mine involved in designing dual drug infusion pumps. His thought was to have a kind of fractional distillation with a Peltier cooler to remove the water vapor from the sample. This is a very cool project, good luck!

  Are you sure? yes | no

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