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New Wearable Electronic Skin Patch Could Monitor Alcohol Levels

Aug 03, 2016 07:41 AM EDT

A new electronic skin patch allows users to monitor alcohol levels on mobile devices.

Scientists at the University of California (UC) San Diego have developed a flexible and wearable electronic skin patch that quickly and accurately measures a person's blood alcohol level through sweat, and carries data wirelessly to a laptop or a smartphone.

According to the researchers, the device, which is worn on the skin, could be used by doctors and police officers for continuous, non-invasive and real-time monitoring of alcohol content in the blood.

"Lots of accidents on the road are caused by drunk driving," Joseph Wang, professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego and co-author of the study, said in a press release. "This technology provides an accurate, convenient and quick way to monitor alcohol consumption to help prevent people from driving while intoxicated."

Wang added that the device could also be integrated with a car's alcohol ignition interlocks.

"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," Jayoung Kim, co-first author of the study, said in a statement.

The device consists of a temporary tattoo that is attached to the skin and induces sweat. From the sweat, the device electrochemically detects the alcohol level. The tattoo is connected by a magnet to a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which communicates the data to a mobile device via Bluetooth.

The skin patch is different from breathalyzers, which detect blood alcohol concentration through a person's breath. According to the researchers, breathalyzers may detect alcohol levels that are higher than the person's actual blood alcohol concentration.

Recent research found that blood alcohol concentration could also be detected in sensible sweat - the sweat that appears on the skin. While most systems that measure sensible sweat are not portable, the UC San Diego researchers developed a wearable version of the technology, which could also monitor alcohol levels in as fast as 15 minutes, compared with two hours on traditional monitoring devices.

According to the researchers, the alcohol sensors were tested on nine healthy participants who wore the tattoo on their arms before and after drinking alcohol. The device accurately reflected the subjects' blood alcohol concentrations and was not affected by the wearers' movements.

The findings of the study were recently published in the journal ACS Sensors.

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