Researchers have developed a flexible wearable sensor — consisting of a temporary tattoo which sticks to the skin — that can accurately measure a person’s blood alcohol level from sweat.
The device can be worn on the skin and could be used by doctors and police officers for continuous, non-invasive and real-time monitoring of blood alcohol content.
“Lots of accidents on the road are caused by drunk driving. This technology provides an accurate, convenient and quick way to monitor alcohol consumption to help prevent people from driving while intoxicated,” said one of the lead researchers Joseph Wang, Professor at the University of California at San Diego in the US.
The device consists of a temporary tattoo — which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level — and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth.
The device could be integrated with a car’s alcohol ignition interlocks, or friends could use it to check up on each other before handing over the car keys, Wang added.
“When you’re out at a party or at a bar, this sensor could send alerts to your phone to let you know how much you’ve been drinking,” one of the study’s authors, Jayoung Kim, PhD student in Wang’s group, noted.
Blood alcohol concentration is the most accurate indicator of a person’s alcohol level, but measuring it requires pricking a finger.
Breathalysers, which are the most commonly used devices to indirectly estimate blood alcohol concentration, are non-invasive, but they can give false readouts.
The new alcohol sensor that is wearable, portable and could accurately monitor alcohol level in sweat within 15 minutes was described in the journal ACS Sensors.
Researchers tested the alcohol sensor on nine healthy volunteers who wore the tattoo on their arms before and after consuming an alcoholic beverage. The readouts accurately reflected the wearers’ blood alcohol concentrations.
The device also gave accurate readouts even after repeated bending and shaking. This shows that the sensor would not be affected by the wearer’s movements, the researchers said.