BAC reading tattoo 600x270

Knowing someone’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is of potential interest to health care workers, law enforcement, family and friends, and to the individual him or herself. We’ve previously covered BAC-reading personal breathalyzer devices that you blow into from EdgeTech Labs and the BACTrack Skyn wristband. Now researchers from the Departments of Nanoengineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California, San Diego have developed a wearable tattoo that can give real-time blood alcohol content readings. We wrote about same research group in early 2015 when they showed that a temporary tattoo using electrophoresis could accurately measure blood sugar levels.

The UC researchers employ iontophoretic-biosensing to detect ethanol. In simpler terms, is the tattoo delivers the drug pilocarpine through the skin, which in turn induces sweat. An alcohol oxidase enzyme and Prussian Blue electrode transducer on the tattoo  are highly selective and sensitive to ethanol, according to the study. The tattoo has a flexible electronics that sends real-time data via Bluetooth to a smartphone where the results are immediately evaluated.

Work is continuing with the removable tattoos designed to test for other substances. While the tattoo BAC detector sounds like it could be less prone to the false readings one can get from breathalyzers and deliver results faster than a system that measures ethanol more passively without inducing sweat, there’s still work to be done. For example, the rigid printed circuit board used in the prototype will have to be replaced with a flexible printed-electronic device in order to make the device easier to use.