Engineers at the University of Calif.-San Diego have developed a flexible, wearable sensor that can accurately measure a person’s blood alcohol level from sweat and transmit the data wirelessly to a laptop, smartphone or other mobile device. The device, worn on the skin, could be used by doctors and police officers for continuous, noninvasive and real-time monitoring of blood alcohol content.
In a press release, the university says 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 work, led by nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang and electrical engineering professor Patrick Mercier, both at UC-San Diego, was published recently in the journal ACS Sensors.
Blood alcohol concentration is the most accurate indicator of a person’s alcohol level, but measuring it requires pricking a finger. Breathalyzers, which are the most commonly used devices to indirectly estimate blood alcohol concentration, are non-invasive, but they can give false readouts.
The concept is similar to sweat sensors used in health and fitness wearables that monitor chemical markers in sweat. While the researchers at UC-San Diego are exploring ways to measure alcohol consumption, other initiatives are working on noninvasive wearable technology to detect cystic fibrosis or monitor blood sugar levels.