Breathalyzer: FSA Eligibility
What is a breathalyzer?
The Breathalyzer, which is the brand name for the device that tests alcohol levels developed by inventor Robert Frank Borkenstein, is among the most common methods by which law enforcement and the medical community can measure alcohol levels in a subject's body. The term has become a catch-all phrase to describe a wide range of devices that are used to detect how much alcohol is present in a person's body. These devices do not measure a person's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), as this would require a blood test, but rather they measure the concentration of alcohol on a person's breath to estimate their BAC. These devices are primarily used by law enforcement to enforce the legal driving BAC level of 0.08 (Forbes).
What are the most common types of breathalyzers?
Breathalyzers utilize myriad technologies to detect a person's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), but the three most common forms of breathalyzer technology include via How Stuff Works:
- Infrared Spectrometry: These devices are the much larger variants that are found in hospitals and police departments and work by identifying molecules by their ability to absorb infrared light. In the case of alcohol testing, these devices single out the level of ethanol in a sample, which can then determine an individual's alcohol levels.
- Fuel Cell Testers: This is among the most common breathalyzers available which can be produced in handheld, portable variants. With fuel cell testers, the subject's breath is exhaled into the device by creating a chemical reaction that oxidizes the alcohol in the sample to produce an electric current. The stronger the electric current, the more alcohol is being oxidized to determine the person's BAC.
- Semiconductor Oxide-Based Testers: These devices are the most common at-home alcohol testing devices on the market. These testers use a sensor that is formed from a small and inexpensive bead of metal oxide and utilize a small standing current. When alcohol or other substances come into contact with the bead, the semiconductors' current is altered and this change is used to measure the concentration of the substance in the sample.