Scientists have developed a wearable skin tattoo that detects alcohol levels in sweat and transmits the information to a smartphone, allowing users to monitor their drinking in real time. The device could help reduce unsafe drinking that can lead to vehicle crashes, violence and the degeneration of the health of heavy drinkers.
“It resembles a temporary tattoo, but is actually a biosensor patch that is embedded with several flexible wireless components,” said Seila Selimovic, from the US National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).
“One component releases a chemical that stimulates perspiration on the skin below the patch. Another component senses changes in the electrical current flowing through the generated sweat, which measures alcohol levels and sends them to the user’s cell phone,” said Selimovic.
About 88,000 people in the US die from alcohol-related causes including driving fatalities, which accounted for nearly 10,000 deaths in 2014, researchers said. This significant problem has been addressed by the use of blood tests or breathalyzers by law enforcement. The new wearable monitor has the advantage of being non-invasive and unseen by others, for example, in a bar.
The researchers said that the device has great potential for people to self-monitor their alcohol intake and avoid driving if they have had too much to drink.
“Measuring alcohol in sweat has been attempted before, but those technologies took 2-3 hours to measure alcohol levels,” said Patrick Mercier, at University of California, San Diego in the US.
“Our patch sends alcohol levels to your smartphone in just 8 minutes, making real-time alcohol monitoring possible, practical, and personal,” said Mercier.
The study was published in the journal ACS Sensors.