Engineers develop wearable skin patch which can detect blood alcohol levels by analysing sweat

We have all heard of or read about someone complaining that a drunken driving case was unnecessarily filed against them even though they did not even drink any alcohol that particular day. Well, there are chances that the breathalyser used to check the alcohol level by analysing the person’s breath was malfunctioning. These machines can malfunction and give out the wrong readings sometimes.

Well, engineers at the university of California, San Diego have found a solution to the menace. The engineers have developed a flexible, wearable sensor which measures the alcohol level in the blood of that person by analysing the sweat, and then wirelessly sends the data to a laptop or a smartphone.

The device consists of a few components which enable it to work. It uses a temporary tattoo beneath the patch worn by the user which sticks to the skin and induces sweat which is then analysed by the flexible electronic circuit board which is the patch worn by the user. The electronic circuit then communicates the information to another device via Bluetooth.


The project was initiated and led by nano engineering professor Joseph Wang and electrical engineering professor Patrick Mercier who teach at the University of California, San Diego. The Blood alcohol concentration is the most accurate way of measuring the alcohol levels of a person and checking the blood requires pricking of the skin to extract blood which can cause pain to the person and requires the equipment to be replaced after each use, making it ineffective for use at Police checkposts. As said before, breath analysers are not always accurate, hence the way forward seems to be the wearable sweat analysing device created in San Diego.

This device can have more uses than just at a police checkpost. The device can be linked to a mobile phone based app which can give the current blood alcohol level, allowing the user to monitor and control the same. The most suitable use though could be integration in automobiles for safety. The device could be connected to the ignition circuit of the vehicle, and an alcohol check map can be activated in the vehicles ECU (Electronic Control Unit) every time the driver turns the key. When the system realises that the alcohol content is too much to drive, it would not turn on the engine.

Technology like this is very useful and can make our everyday life much safer than it currently is.

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