Breathalyzer, which one to choose that is reliable and cheap?

November 2, 2021

The breathalyzer is a device designed to estimate the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood through a breath sample. The word ‘breathalyzer’ used for the instrument that estimates the alcohol level constructed by inventor Robert Frank Borkenstein. It was registered on May 13, 1954, but many people use the term to refer to any generic device for estimating blood alcohol content.

Today, breathalyzer tests are commonly used by law enforcement officers during traffic stops when the driver is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. Breathalyzer test results are not 100% accurate, but the evidence is generally accepted by the courts.

There is a direct correlation between the alcohol content in a person’s breath and its concentration in the blood. During breathing, alcohol in the blood vaporizes and is drawn from the lungs in the breath exhaled by the person. There are several types of breath alcohol testing instruments available today. These range from disposable detection testers to equipment that provides legally admissible results.

Next, we will delve into everything related to this important laboratory instrument , such as the ammeter , which has even achieved a law of use. Join us!

What is a breathalyzer?

While many people have a notion of the instrument, some may wonder, what is a breathalyzer? Well, generally speaking, a breathalyzer is a tool used to determine if a driver is under the influence while driving a motorized vehicle.

Breathalyzers are breath analysis testing instruments in which a suspect must blow a stream of air. The device estimates the individual’s blood alcohol content as grams of alcohol per ml of blood. While indirect means of testing do not produce perfect results, their results have been shown to be quite accurate and reliable.

It is important for the safety of people that drunk drivers are taken off the roads. Drivers who can pass roadside sobriety tests, whether by touching their nose or walking in a straight line, may still be breaking the legal blood alcohol limit and be a hazard on the road. Therefore, police and guards use some of the latest technology to detect alcohol levels in suspected drunk drivers and get them off the streets.

History of the breathalyzer

Although the breathalyzer was not officially registered until 1954, the people involved were working on the idea of ​​a non-invasive test to determine an individual’s level of intoxication as early as 1874. When Francis E. Anstie discovered that small amounts of alcohol were produced in a person through breath.

In 1927, Emil Bogen wrote an article on the possibilities of testing a person’s breath for alcohol residues, after conducting a study in which people inflated soccer bladders orally to provide a sample for testing. .

That same year, a chemist named William Duncan McNally invented a device that detected chemicals in the breath. McNally’s device caused the breath to move through chemicals suspended in the water, causing the water to change color. The device was intended to be used by housewives to test their husbands’ drunkenness after a night out with the children.

The first breath analyzer that could be practically used on the side of the road, called a “drunkometer,” was developed in 1931 by Rolla Neil Harger of the Indiana University School of Medicine. This device captured the breath of an individual on a balloon inside the machine.

Breathalyzer Law Enforcement

Breath analyzers do not directly measure the content or concentration of alcohol in the blood, which requires analysis of a blood sample. Instead, they estimate BAC indirectly by measuring the amount of alcohol in your breath. Generally, two types of breathalyzer are used.

Small portable breathalyzers are not reliable enough to provide evidence in court, but reliable enough to warrant an arrest. The largest breathalyzer devices found in police stations can be used to produce court evidence.

Breathalyzer test

A breathalyzer test is often performed after a suspect is had to take a field sobriety test . It works by having the suspect breathe out into the device, which measures the amount of ethanol present in the breath.

A current is produced and measured by a microprocessor, then displays the results. Breathalyzer tests and their acceptance as evidence in court are regulated by each state, although there are certain general requirements regarding their use.

For the results of a breath analysis test to be admissible in court, these requirements must be met:

  • The breathalyzer device must be on a list of acceptable devices as specified by state guidelines
  • The breathalyzer device should be maintained and regularly checked for accuracy.
  • The person administering the test must be certified to use that model of breathalyzer.
  • The suspect must not have eaten, smoked, vomited, or drunk hot or cold liquids immediately prior to testing.
  • The test must take at least two measurable readings that produce results within 0.02 percent of each other to show the accuracy of the breathalyzer

Breathalyzer Accuracy

The breathalyzer is the most widely used test to determine a person’s blood alcohol content when it comes to DUI / DWI cases. A breathalyzer test is not as accurate as a blood test, but the results are generally considered accurate if the test is administered correctly.

However, there is some controversy among scientific and medical professionals regarding the accuracy of the breathalyzer, as some experts have come forward to debate the issue.

A study has shown that breath alcohol test readings can vary by 15 percent from subjects’ actual blood alcohol levels.

Digital breathalyzer

The invention of the portable breathalyzer has made it possible for people to test their own breath alcohol content to determine if they can legally drive. The market has become saturated with portable breathalyzers designed for home use. Portable breathalyzers come in all shapes, sizes, and prices.

Some are more accurate than others and come with a higher price. Some test models are even compact enough to fit on a keychain, and can be used with a smartphone app. From a legal perspective, law and enforcement professionals advise against relying solely on the results of a portable breathalyzer test, as driving while intoxicated at any level is dangerous.

Common Breathalyzer Errors


Many portable breath analyzers sold to consumers use a silicon oxide sensor, also called a semiconductor sensor, to determine the concentration of alcohol in the blood. These sensors are much more prone to contamination and interference from substances other than breath alcohol.

The sensors require calibration or replacement every six months. Top-level personal breath analyzers and professional-use breath alcohol testers use platinum fuel cell sensors.

There are two methods for calibrating a precision fuel cell respiration analyzer, the wet bath method and the dry gas method. Each method requires specialized equipment and factory-trained technicians. It is not a procedure that can be performed by untrained users or without the proper equipment.

Non-specific analysis

A major problem with older breath analyzers is non-specificity. The machines identify not only the ethyl alcohol found in alcoholic beverages , but also other substances similar in molecular structure or reactivity. Older models pass their breath through a solution of potassium dichromate. Which oxidizes ethanol to acetic acid, changing color in the process.

A beam of monochromatic light is passed through this sample, and a detector records the change in intensity and therefore the change in color, which is used to calculate the percentage of alcohol in the breath. However, since potassium dichromate is a strong oxidant, numerous groups of alcohol can be oxidized, producing false positives.

Interfering compounds

There are some natural and volatile interfering compounds . For example, dieters and diabetics can have acetone levels hundreds or even thousands of times higher than others.

Acetone is one of the many substances that some respiratory machines may falsely identify as ethyl alcohol. However, fuel cell based systems do not respond to substances like acetone.

Buccal alcohol

One of the most common causes of falsely high breath analyzer readings is alcohol in the mouth . When analyzing a subject’s breath sample, the breath analyzer’s internal computer assumes that the alcohol in the breath sample comes from alveolar air, that is, air exhaled from deep within the lungs. However, alcohol can come from the mouth, throat, or stomach for a number of reasons.

Dr. Loony Davis5
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Born and raised in Brussels in an English family, I have always lived in a multicultural environment. After several work experiences in marketing and communication, I came to Smart Water Magazine, which I describe as the most exciting challenge of my career.
I am a person with great restlessness and curiosity to learn, discover what I do not know, as well as reinvent myself daily, someone who is curious about life and wants to know. I enjoy sharing knowledge.
This is my personal project but I also collaborate in other blogs, it is the case, the most important web on water currently exists in the US, if you are interested you can read my articles here.

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