Innovative Technology Lets You Monitor Your Blood Alcohol Content Using Bluetooth And A Temporary Tattoo

BAC Wearable Technology

Drawing blood from a thumb prick isn’t the most practical real-life option there is in reading a person’s blood alcohol level (BAC), and breathalyzers aren’t all that accurate and can be easily cheated with a simple swig of any store brand mouthwash to distort the readings.

Thanks to a new development published in the journal for ACS Sensors from two UC San Diego engineers, monitoring blood alcohol levels has just gone mobile – taking an innovative leap in real-time accurate blood alcohol level (BAC) readings from any mobile device, or via bluetooth.

“This device can use a Bluetooth connection, which is something a breathalyzer can’t do. We’ve found a way to make the electronics portable and wireless, which are important for practical, real-life use,” said Somayeh Imani, an electrical engineering PhD student in Mercier’s lab and a co-first author on the paper.

The UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering recently published an article shining light on this innovative solution. Led by nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang and electrical engineering professor Patrick Mercier, this wearable development measures the sweat it induces on whomever wears it, measures their blood alcohol level, then sends electronic signals to devices via a mobile app.

“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,” said Jayoung Kim, a materials science and engineering PhD student in Wang’s group and one of the paper’s co-first authors.

But how is it worn?

It all starts with a temporary tattoo, created by Dr. Joseph Wang Nanoengineering and Director, Center for Wearable Sensors UCSD, that is equipped with screen-printed electrodes and a small hydrogel patch containing pilocarpine, a drug that goes beneath the skin to induce sweat. Then magnetically connected to the tattoo is a flexible electronic circuit board, designed by Patrick Mercier Electrical & Computer Engineering and Co-Director, Center for Wearable Sensors, that powers the tattoo and communicates wirelessly with a mobile device, changing the way smartphones are used by doctors and police that monitor blood alcohol levels.

“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,” Wang said.

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, he added.

The developers tested their new technology on healthy volunteers each wearing the tattoo on their arms, who were tested before and after drinking either a bottle of beer, or a glass of wine. Readouts confirmed the volunteers’ accurate blood alcohol levels. The device also proved durable during testing, as volunteers naturally shook and bent their arms without affecting the positioning nor readout accuracy.

See the full paper here.

Joseph Bryant
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