Studies on a Wearable, Electronic, Transdermal Alcohol Sensor


  • This research was supported by Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental health Administration SBIR Grant 2R44AA07657.

Reprint requests: Robert M. Swift, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, Roger Williams Medical Center, 825 Chalkstone Avenue, Providence, RI 02908.


The measurement of alcohol consumption over long time periods is important for monitoring treatment outcome and for research applications. Giner, Inc. has developed a wearable device that senses ethanol vapor at the surface of the skin, using an electrochemical cell that produces a continuous current signal proportional to ethanol concentration. A thermistor monitors continuous contact of the sensor with the skin, and a data-acquisition/logic circuit stores days of data recorded at 2- to 5-min intervals. Testing of this novel ethanol sensor/recorder was conducted on nonalcoholic human subjects consuming known quantities of ethanol and on intoxicated alcoholic subjects. The transdermal sensor signal closely follows the pattern of the blood alcohol concentration curve, although with a delay. This paper describes the concept of electrochemical ethanol measurement and presents some of the clinical data collected in support of the sensor/recorder development.