When people talk about alcohol and tattoos it inevitably conjures up images of drunken mistakes, group decisions gone bad, and regrettable designs. The University of California at San Diego has come up with a new way to link these two longtime companions. They’ve created a new device that can detect your blood alcohol level and send the results to an app on your phone via a tattoo.
Drunk driving is one of the highest causes of road deaths. Without installing costly breathalyzers into your car, it’s often hard to tell if you’re alright to drive. In fact, even being slightly buzzed often means you’re well over the legal limit. This tattoo technology could easily be integrated into a car’s design to check up on you, or for friends to have at home before letting anyone leave the party.
Tattoo Technology, What Does that Mean?
The actual tattoo isn’t really a tattoo in the traditional sense, but a biosensor patch. It uses a three-part process to detect your blood alcohol. The process starts by releasing a chemical from the patch that causes your skin to sweat. Sweat has been used before to determine blood alcohol levels and the process used to take hours to analyze but this new device can do it in minutes. The device uses electromagnetic currents to then measure the alcohol in the sweat and sends the results to your phone via Bluetooth.
The tattoo isn’t invasive and since you don’t have to do anything other than attach the patch, it’s a lot easier than trying to blow into a tube. Plus, there are no needles involved at all.
While the device isn’t yet available to the public there’s potential for this technology to be used for so many other applications. For example, most fitness trackers are considered to be fairly inaccurate so a patch like this could be impregnated with sensors to do the same tasks. The potential for future applications is limitless.
But Does it Actually Work?
The first “wearable” tattoos that included this impressive technology came about a couple of years ago. These were simple medical tattoos that were more like a Band Aid than an actual tattoo. These evolved into something called a Biostamp. This is what most people would recognize as a wearable tattoo that is a thin sticky layer with a design or sensors in it. The process that UCSD used was pioneered by the University of Illinois who created a way for circuits to be flexible enough to move with the skin while powered wirelessly. Other universities all over the world have now started developing these skin-like electronic tattoos. Researchers are attempting to pioneer inks that are applied directly to the skin which work in the same way.
In the future, these simple tattoos could monitor your health, your heart, and even let you know when you’ve been in the sun too long. Several sensors have already been developed and the clear sticker around them is so much like your own skin it’s no wonder people are calling these tattoos.