FEB 10, 2022 8:00 AM PST

Tipsy? Sensor Warns Wearers When They've Had One Too Many.

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandes

The liver can (on average) metabolize about one standard drink of alcohol every hour. Still, it’s not unusual for people to consume more alcohol than the body can handle, which can sometimes lead to negative consequences. 

According to behavioral scientists, the problem is that it’s not always easy for drinkers to gauge how much they’ve actually had. Beer, cocktails, wine, and liquors all have varying amounts of alcohol in them. Other factors such as the person’s weight can influence their blood alcohol concentrations over time.

Researchers have now developed a wearable sensor to help prevent some of the dangerous consequences of excessive drinking.

“By using wearable technology to predict alcohol-related consequences—which range from automobile accidents to hangovers to missing work to sexual assault and beyond—we can begin to prevent alcohol-related consequences,” explained one of the sensor’s inventors, Michael Russell from Penn State.

Instead of measuring alcohol concentrations via the breath, as with breathalyzers, the sensors track trace amounts of alcohol present on the skin. Around 1 percent of alcohol consumed is excreted through sweat. The sensors were designed to be easy and comfortable to wear, requiring no input from the user.

Interestingly, unlike breathalyzers that provide an output closely matching the individual’s current blood alcohol content, the transdermal sensor provides a more holistic picture of the person’s entire drinking event.

Though for most, the misuse of alcohol results in nothing more than a pounding headache the next day, for others, it can result in the loss of life. Russell’s team hopes that these and other technological advances will help limit the potential harm that can stem from alcohol abuse.

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Interested in health technology and innovation.
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