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Digital Alcohol Breath Tester: What It Is, How It Works, and the Features

19 February, 2024

A woman blowing into a BACtrack Breathalyser

lcohol-related accidents are a major concern worldwide. In particular, drink driving causes thousands of injuries and fatalities year after year. To prevent this, police officers use digital alcohol breath testers to measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration of drivers. It is a portable device that uses semiconductor or fuel cell sensors to analyse the breath samples. Upon contact with ethanol, electrical currents form corresponding to the BAC level. Its features include a digital display, long battery life, and user-friendly interfaces.

Various organisations use breath testers to identify individuals with Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD), including workplaces and healthcare establishments. Alcohol can have severe negative impacts on individuals, which can also affect their surroundings. Hence, testing is crucial to prevent accidents from occurring and provide interventions. Individuals can also buy personal breathalysers to self-monitor and limit their consumption. This article will present information on breathalysers, how they work, and the features to consider.

What is a Digital Alcohol Breath Tester?

A digital alcohol breath tester is a device that measures the alcohol content from the breath samples. There are different types based on the sensors they use. Moreover, many have advanced features that enable convenient breath alcohol testing. Law enforcement uses these to identify drivers breaking drink driving laws. However, there are also personal use items available for convenient use.

Personal breathalyser products are available from online suppliers and various physical stores, like supermarkets, department stores, and pharmacies. The costs can vary, depending on the sensors and other features. Different designs can address differing needs. Some offer small units with smartphone compatibility using Bluetooth. There are also standalone devices that are slightly bigger but remain portable digital breathalysers.

Breath testers are helpful for various purposes. It can help people monitor their alcohol levels and limit their liquor consumption. It can also provide them with objective information on if they are legally allowed to drive. This is why using breath alcohol testers is growing in popularity.

Types of Digital Breath Testers

  • Semiconductor breath testers are commonly used for personal breath alcohol testers due to their affordable prices. However, it is prone to interference from environmental factors, such as alcohol fumes, temperature, and atmosphere.
  • Fuel cell breath testers are more accurate devices since their sensors only react to ethanol. This is commonly used for workplace and law enforcement digital breath alcohol testers. However, they are more expensive than semiconductor testing devices.
  • An infrared spectrophotometer is a device that law enforcement uses in stations for evidentiary testing. It is highly accurate and uses infrared spectrometry to measure the alcohol molecules.

A woman using a breathalyser outdoors

How Digital Alcohol Breath Testers Work

Digital alcohol breath testers work by using sensors to analyse the breath specimen from an individual. The device typically has a breath sampling tube or mouthpiece that delivers the breath samples into a semiconductor or fuel cell sensor. This sensor analyses the sample by measuring the amount of resistance based on the electrical currents produced by the chemical reaction. This result appears on the LCD screen display as the BAC level measurement.

The BAC is the amount of alcohol in the blood. Different levels can have various effects on individuals. Although the effects of liquor consumption do vary depending on the person, BAC measurements still provide a reliable estimation of the level of impairment. This is why New Zealand laws strictly enforce legal drink driving limits.

The limit for most drivers than 20 is 0.05%. Meanwhile, those who are younger than 20 must comply with and only drive with zero BAC. Employers may also set specific limits in their workplace policy. Hence, it is crucial to remember that failing a breath test can lead to significant repercussions.

Technology Behind Digital Breath Testers

Digital breath testers use advanced sensor technology to accurately measure the BAC level. Semiconductor sensors work by using a tin oxide compound to create a chemical reaction with the ethanol in the breath samples. This reaction produces electric currents that reflect the BAC levels.

On the other hand, fuel cell sensors use platinum electrodes. These produce electrons, protons, and acetic acid upon contact with ethanol. Similar to semiconductors, they also produce electric currents corresponding to the BAC measurement. This is more common nowadays due to the need for precision by law enforcement and employers. Many personal units use these as well.

Professional breathalysers that meet the AS 3547 standards

Features and Functions to Consider in a Digital Alcohol Breath Tester

There are many product options available when looking for a digital alcohol breath tester. Hence, individuals must consider various factors before selecting one. Foremost, the device must function well and provide accurate and reliable results. To ensure this, many select testing devices with fuel cell sensors. This is because fuel cell breathalysers remain cost-effective while providing their users with peace of mind.

The features available are also vital to take into account. Firstly, the device should have a clear and easily readable display. It should remain easy to read even while intoxicated or in low-light areas. Secondly, it should have a user-friendly interface. It should be simple to power on, navigate, and conduct a test.

Thirdly, the device should have a lightweight and portable design. As such, people will be more motivated to bring the tester and use it whenever needed. This is why there are also testers that are small as keychains. Lastly, it should not have a long battery life. Ideally, they should be capable of hundreds or thousands of tests with one set of batteries.

Accuracy and Reliability

The accuracy and reliability of an alcohol breath tester are crucial to making informed decisions for safety. Hence, many opt for devices from reputable brands and look for certifications from regulatory bodies. However, proper use also plays a crucial part.

Therefore, users must ensure they follow the instructions for breath testing. One of these is waiting at least 15 minutes before conducting a test. Another guideline is to continuously provide a breath sample until the device signals them to stop. Lastly, they must ensure to recalibrate the device at set times to maintain the accuracy of the sensors.

Conclusion

A digital alcohol breath tester is a device that organisations and individuals use to measure BAC levels. It uses semiconductor or fuel cell sensors to create chemical reactions and electric currents that reflect the BAC. This process takes a few seconds before showing the corresponding number in the digital LCD display. People can purchase these devices from physical stores and online retailers. Many personal units have fuel cell sensors, which are also the ones police officers use during roadside tests.

However, it is crucial to consider the features before buying a breathalyser. To ensure accuracy, buying from reputable brands with good reviews is ideal. They should also ensure it has an easy-to-read display, user-friendly interface, long battery life, and portable design. It can also help to buy products with accreditation to ensure their accuracy. Those interested in purchasing a breathalyser may consider the BACtrack products here at Breathalysers NZ.

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