Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 410, Issue 16, pp 3671–3681 | Cite as

Rapid recognition of volatile organic compounds with colorimetric sensor arrays for lung cancer screening

  • Xianhua Zhong
  • Dan Li
  • Wei Du
  • Mengqiu Yan
  • You Wang
  • Danqun Huo
  • Changjun Hou
Research Paper


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath can be used as biomarkers to identify early stages of lung cancer. Herein, we report a disposable colorimetric array that has been constructed from diverse chemo-responsive colorants. Distinguishable difference maps were plotted within 4 min for specifically targeted VOCs. Through the consideration of various chemical interactions with VOCs, the arrays successfully discriminate between 20 different volatile organic compounds in breath that are related to lung cancer. VOCs were identified either with the visualized difference maps or through pattern recognition with an accuracy of at least 90%. No uncertainties or errors were observed in the hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA). Finally, good reproducibility and stability of the array was achieved against changes in humidity. Generally, this work provides fundamental support for construction of simple and rapid VOC sensors. More importantly, this approach provides a hypothesis-free array method for breath testing via VOC profiling. Therefore, this small, rapid, non-invasive, inexpensive, and visualized sensor array is a powerful and promising tool for early screening of lung cancer.

Graphical abstract

A disposable colorimetric array has been developed with broadly chemo-responsive dyes to incorporate various chemical interactions, through which the arrays successfully discriminate 20 VOCs that are related to lung cancer via difference maps alone or chemometrics within 4 min. The hydrophobic porous matrix provides good stability against changes in humidity.


VOCs Lung cancer Classification Chemo-responsive Colorimetric array Pattern recognition 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (No. 81772290), Chongqing Graduate Student Research Innovation Project (No. CYB17037), the Workstation in Sichuan Province GY2015-01, and the sharing fund of Chongqing University’s large equipment for financial support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that no conflict exists and the study has not involved human participants or animals.

Supplementary material

216_2018_948_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (126 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 126 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Biorheology Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, College of BioengineeringChongqing UniversityChongqingChina

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