News > Will alcohol content soon be monitored by a patch?

Will alcohol content soon be monitored by a patch?

 - 28/09/2016

Researchers at California University, San Diego, have developed a new technology that could enable doctors and the police force to precisely monitor blood alcohol levels by measuring the alcohol in a driver’s sweat thank to a connected patch that is stuck directly onto the skin.

Developed by Joseph Wang and Patrick Mercier, this device makes it possible to rapidly and noninvasively monitor blood alcohol levels in motorists and therefore contribute to preventing drunk driving, one of the most frequent causes of traffic accidents.

At the moment, the most precise method of measuring blood alcohol content is also the most intrusive, because it requires taking a blood sample from the driver. The most common method is the Breathalyzer test, but the latter is not always reliable.

This new device is simply stuck onto the skin and the results are visible in just 15 minutes.

Wireless transfer of data to a mobile device

The patch releases pilocarpine, a substance that penetrates into the skin and induces sweat. The latter comes into contact with an electrode coated in alcohol-oxidase, an enzyme that reacts to the presence of alcohol by releasing hydrogen peroxide that is in turn detected by the patch.

The data collected is forwarded wirelessly to a mobile device or a computer. It is also possible to program an alarm so that the patch warns drivers, for example, on an evening out, that they have exceeded the legal limit and can no longer drive.

The device could also be used to prevent drunk driving, by integrating it into the vehicle’s start-up system.

Blood alcohol content monitoring for 24 hours?

For the moment, the researchers have tested their device on nine healthy volunteers who wore the patch on their arm before drinking a beer or a glass of wine.

The system not only reflected the exact blood alcohol content of each person, but also remained precise after being folded or shaken, thereby illustrating that the results are not affected by a person’s movements.

The team is currently seeking ways of developing a device that would be able to track blood alcohol content levels over 24 hour periods.

This research was recently published in the ACS Sensors journal.


Photo : ©UC San Diego