Flexible wearable electronic skin patch monitor alcohol levels


Generally, Blood alcohol concentration indicator is used to measure person’s blood alcohol level. But it requires pricking finger. Breathalyzers are mostly used the known device to indirectly evaluate blood alcohol concentration, are non-invasive. But they can give false readouts.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego have developed a new wearable electronic skin patch. This patch has the ability to measure person’s blood alcohol level from sweat. Then, it transmits data wirelessly to the laptop, smartphone, and another mobile device within 15 minutes.

The device consists a tattoo and a compact flexible electronic circuit board. A compact flexible electronic circuit board is connected to the device via magnet. Tattoo induces sweat after sticks to skin and detects the alcohol level. The electronic circuit board then communicate information with laptop or smartphones via Bluetooth.

Joseph Wang, the nanoengineering professor, said, “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. 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.”

Jayoung Kim, a materials science and engineering Ph.D. student in Wang’s group said, “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.”

This device does not need to be exercising or sweating already. The user can put on the patch and within a few minutes get a reading that’s well correlated to his or her blood alcohol concentration. Such a device hasn’t been available until now.

Flexible wearable electronic skin patch monitor alcohol levels
The alcohol sensor consists of a temporary tattoo (left) developed by the Wang lab and a flexible printed electronic circuit board (right) developed by the Mercier lab. Credit: University of California – San Diego

Working of Flexible wearable electronic skin patch:

Wang and Patrick Mercier, from UC San Diego, came together to develop this device. They then devised the printed flexible electronic circuit board that powers the tattoo and can communicate wirelessly with a mobile device. Next, they devised the magnetic connector that attaches the electronic circuit board to the tattoo, as well as the device’s phone app.

The tattoo works first by releasing pilocarpine to generate sweat. Then, the sweat comes into contact with an electrode coated with alcohol oxidase. It is an enzyme that selectively reacts with alcohol to generate hydrogen peroxide which can be electrochemically identified. This information sent to the electronic circuit board in the form of  electrical signals. The data communicated wirelessly to a mobile device.

Somayeh Imani, an electrical engineering Ph.D. student in Mercier’s lab said, “This device can use a Bluetooth connection, that a Breathalyzer can’t do. We’ve found a way to make the electronics portable and wireless. These is important for practical, real-life use.”

To test device, researchers ask 9 healthy volunteers to wear the device on their arms before and after consuming an alcoholic beverage. After testing, scientists found that the results precisely reflects the wearers’ blood alcohol concentrations. Additionally, the results also show that device gives precise results even after continuous shaking and bending.

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