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Contact-free biomarker detection during space missions for remote astronaut health monitoring



Organisational Unit
17 April 2024

Duration: 36 months


Every exhaled breath contains thousands of different molecules that can be used to monitor health in real-time. Yet, the breath of astronauts is not analyzed during space missions due to a lack of suitable sensors. Nowadays, primarily established are blood pressure, heartbeat, body temperature, humidity and radiation exposure detection to monitor astronaut health and comfort. Previous ESA developments like the RSS – Respiratory Sensor System considered breath by monitoring exhalation flow and highly concentrated breath compounds (e.g., O2, CO2 and H2) to investigate respiratory gas exchange and lung function. But most physiological and pathological information is contained in breath molecules concentrated at trace-level. Recent advances in nanotechnology enable us now to design high-performance sensors to selectively quantify breath markers down to parts-per-billion concentration for continuous health monitoring with full timeline transparency. This co-sponsored project will investigate a novel chemical sensing platform to explore contact-free health monitoring of astronauts during space missions, for instance, when inside space transportation systems or space/moon stations. More specifically, we will focus on space-relevant musculoskeletal, metabolic and gut microbiota changes by detecting associated breath molecules like ammonia, isoprene, short-chained fatty acids and ketones. We will capitalize on our previously pioneered sensing nanoparticles and filters made by combustion aerosol technology. Integrated into a headset, the sensor platform will be tested on humans in a trial during exercising and fasting together with experienced clinicians from the University Hospital Zürich with granted permission to conduct such riskless breath tests on humans. As a proof-of-concept under space-relevant conditions, final prototypes of the resulting breath analyzer headset will be provided to ESA/ESTEC and can be tested at Concordia and under bedrest.

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Contact-free biomarker detection during space missions for remote astronaut health monitoring