Alcohol Sensing

Discover the contact-free, unobtrusive measurement of a driver’s breath alcohol

In the field of automotive alcohol safety systems, our current projects include the development of a new technology to allow for contact-free, unobtrusive measurement of the driver’s breath alcohol.

When it comes to measuring a person’s blood alcohol concentration, most people are familiar with breathalysers that require that drivers provide a deep lung sample by blowing into a tube or other sensor. In contrast, the breath-based system being developed by Senseair is designed to unobtrusively analyse alcohol on the driver’s breath. Today a simple puff of air is required for an accepted sample. Moving forward, the driver will simply be able to enter the vehicle and breathe as they normally would for a correct classification of the drivers ability to drive. 

Key benefits:

  • Contact-free
  • Unobtrusive
  • No calibration required
  • Measures alcohol as the driver breathes normally while seated in the driver's seat

How does it work?

The system draws the driver’s exhaled breath into a sensor, which measures the concentrations of alcohol and carbon dioxide present. The known quantity of carbon dioxide in human breath serves as an indicator of the degree of dilution of the alcohol concentration in exhaled air.

Molecules of alcohol and tracers like carbon dioxide absorb infrared light at specific wavelengths. The Senseair device directs infrared light beams on the breath sample and analyses the wavelengths returned in order to quickly and accurately calculate the alcohol concentration.

Molecules of alcohol and tracer gas, e.g. carbon dioxide, absorb infrared light at specific wavelengths. The Senseair device make use of non-dispersive infrared technology infrared light beams on the to analyze the  breath sample and analyses the wavelengths returned in order to quickly and accurately calculate the alcohol concentration

Testing the prototype

To test the prototype under development, the prototype is being rigorously tested using state-of-the-art wet gas breath simulators. The simulator blends gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and oxygen with moisture to create an “exhaled breath” that matches the composition, temperature, and pressure of natural human breath. Ethanol can then be added to the breath at various concentrations. Extensive human subject testing in a hospital setting and human subject driving is ongoing and required to ensure the technology meets the exceptionally high standards required for accuracy, precision and reliability.

The development effort is being conducted in close collaboration with the DADSS program. The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) Program is a public-private partnership between the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS), a Virginia not–for–profit which represents the world’s leading automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Public-private partnerships like DADSS have led to innovations that enhance our everyday lives, such as the internet, GPS and the microchip. The Program is researching a first-of-its-kind technology called the alcohol detection system that will detect when a driver is impaired with alcohol and prevent a vehicle from moving.

Read more about the project at https://www.dadss.org/breath-based-technology/