When someone is actually intoxicated, they might not be very cooperative when told to blow into a breathalyzer. There could soon be a more passive but even as accurate alternative, though, in the type of an earmuff that measures blood alcohol levels.
Breathalyzers work by measuring ethanol levels in person’s breath, which correspond to levels in their bloodstream. Ethanol is additionally released through the skin, although the concentrations are too low for an accurate reading on most parts of the body. Additionally, the presence of sweat glands within the skin may skew the readings.
Seeking a more reliable alternative, scientists from Tokyo Medical & Dental University instead looked to the ears. Not only is ear skin known to release more ethanol than skin on areas like the hands or arms, but it also contains relatively few sweat glands. With these facts in mind, the researchers set about modifying an existing set of off-the-shelf protective earmuffs.
In the resulting experimental system, filtered air is pumped into one among the muffs via a hose that runs into a hole at the highest top. That air passes through the sealed chamber surrounding the ear, collecting emitted ethanol gas although it does so, and is then drawn out of the muff via a hose at rock bottom .
That lower hose runs to a separate device referred to as a bio-sniffer. When “excited” by ultraviolet , a sensor within that bio-sniffer fluoresces within the presence of ethanol gas – the greater the concentration of ethanol, the more intense the fluorescence.
In lab tests, the earmuff was placed on three male volunteers who had each consumed a group amount of alcohol. At regular intervals over subsequent 140 minutes, their blood alcohol levels were checked via both the earmuff and a standard breathalyzer. The readings of the 2 devices were found to be consistently similar.
It is now hoped that when developed further, the technology might be utilized as an alternate to breathalyzers, and maybe also as a way of detecting different skin-released gases related to diseases.
The research has been published in the Journal Scientific Reports.