How does a breathalyser device work?

There are two technologies commonly used in breath alcohol testing: platinum fuel cell breathalyzer and semiconductor.

Firstly, platinum fuel cell breathalyzer is the gold standard of hand-held alcohol testers. Especially for both professional and personal use. Secondly, they are the choice of users such as law enforcement and serious private users. Concerned parents and individuals choice who require measurement accuracy they can trust are also reliant on our breathalyzers.

In fuel cell breathalyzer, the breath is directed into a fuel cell with dual platinum electrodes. It is where it is oxidised and generates an electrical current. The higher the alcohol content of the breath, the greater the current output of the fuel cell. The instrument records a precise measure of breath alcohol content (BAC). This is by accurately measuring the current produced in the fuel cell.

How accurate are breathalyser tests?

Professional units use platinum fuel cell technology with advanced measurement algorithms. It is exceptionally accurate and very reliable in that combination. Unlike semiconductor devices, platinum fuel cell technology reacts only to alcohol. It does not react to other airborne substances such as gasoline, cigarette smoke, acetones and ketones. Contrary to popular myths, you cannot fool a precision fuel cell breathalyzer by inhaling instead of blowing, pennies in the mouth, gum or breath mints.

With alcohol testers, you get what you pay for. It is probably wise not to trust semiconductor testers even if they are inexpensive. These testers can give positive alcohol readings even when no alcohol is present. Semiconductor testers require frequent re-calibration and have a short working life. Independent scientific testing has repeatedly found a wide variation in alcohol readings. 

Are there any significant differences between law enforcers devices versus consumer devices?

Law enforcement breath testing is a serious business requiring instruments of high precision and reliability. They use a fuel cell breathalyzer, rather than semiconductor technology. LE units are rigorously tested and maintained to very high standards. Department of Transportation test and approves these devices. This is through evidential standards as well as approved by each state.

The FDA clears the consumer breathalysers to sell it legally in the US. The FDA does not require that consumer breath testers meet the same standards of accuracy and precision as required by law enforcement. This has allowed the proliferation of cheap and unreliable imports that probably do more harm than good.

What are some advantages to a consumer owning a personal breathalyser?

Only a precision fuel cell breathalyzer can provide an accurate measure of BAC at any point in time. Other techniques such as “drink tables” and “drink software” may be education, but they are not reliable measurement tools. Only a good breathalyser can account for the many variables affecting individual alcohol intoxication. These are gender, age, percent body fat, health and how much alcohol in the drink.

Useful consumer applications include:

  • Home bar and party use
  • Self-testing
  • Morning after testing
  • Office and holiday party safety
  • Parental testing and education
  • Responsible recreational vehicle use

Breathalysers-Australia offers reliable fuel cell breathalyzer selections, click here to browse our products.