Sensors that can detect blood alcohol levels without actually taking blood samples are not a new thing. They are used extensively by law enforcement officials in order to keep tabs on drunk driving and parole violation among other things.
Currently these sensors are usually fitted in bulky devices such as breathalysers and ankle bracelets, which while being effective, are still quite bulky to be discreet.
While some would say the use of such devices isn’t meant to be discreet, however, this factor is very important when considering potential applications for civilian and medical use.
To help with this form of application, engineers from the University of California have built a flexible sensor that can be worn as a temporary tattoo, and be used to track blood alcohol levels round the clock.
These reading are taken with the help of screen-printed electrodes covered with a small hydrogel patch which is loaded with pilocarpine.
Pilocarpine is a drug that induces saliva and sweat through the skin. By doing so, the sensor automatically attracts sweat, which then reacts to the alcohol oxidase that’s coated on the sensor.
The readings caused by this reaction are then relayed via bluetooth to your laptop or smartphone. To make sure the design remains entirely flexible, the circuit board responsible for power supply and bluetooth connectivity too is kept flexible.
As you can see, the whole concept revolves around creating a device that is both accurate and instant, while remaining flexible, so that it can be used for extended periods of time without hassle.
The aim now, is to make this design cheaper to replicate, so that one day it could be used on a large scale to prevent alcohol abuse.