This Flexible Wearable Electronic Stick-on Tattoo Monitors Your Booze Level

Engineers in the United States have invented a stick on tattoo that they claim will be able to measure a person’s blood alcohol concentration, accurately and quickly.

According to the engineers at the University of California San Diego, the newly developed flexible electronic skin patch can accurately detect the wearer’s blood alcohol level from sweat and transmit the results wirelessly to a smartphone, laptop or any other device.

Joseph Wang, Patrick Mercier and their colleagues at the University of California believe their wearable sensor could be used by doctors and police officers for when testing potential drunk drivers.

What exactly is this electronic skin patch? It is a two-part device that consists of a temporary tattoo that easily sticks to the skin, induces sweat by delivering a small amount of drug, pilocarpine. Subsequently an enzymatic reaction occurs that leads to electrochemically detection of alcohol content. The second part of the device is a portable flexible electronic circuit board connected to the tattoo that communicates the data to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The device can supposedly give an accurate reading within just 15 minutes.

“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,” said Wang, who is a nanoengineering professor at UC San Diego.

The device can be integrated to with a vehicle’s ignition interlock system, or used by bartenders, law enforcement or friends to check each other’s drinking status, the researchers say.

“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 co-first author of the paper.

In a small-scale testing, researchers tested the wearable alcohol sensor on 9 healthy volunteers who wore the tattoo on their arms before and after consuming a bottle of beer or a glass of red wine. The readouts accurately measured the test subjects’ blood alcohol content.

The device reflected the readouts accurately even after repeated bending and shaking of the body, indicating the electronic patch won’t be affected by the wearer’s movements, researchers said.

“What’s also innovative about this technology is that the wearer doesn’t 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,” said co-researcher Mercier, who is an electrical engineering at UC San Diego.

The team is now working to develop a device that could continuously monitor booze levels for 24 hours.