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Comparison of Breathalyser Sensors

The sensor of a breathalyser is responsible for detecting and measuring the blood alcohol consumption (BAC) level of the test’s target. It is the component of the device that converts the alcohol in the breath sample into a quantifiable number that the breathalyser can then return to the user.  

What is a semi-conductor sensor?

A semi-conductor breathalyser uses chemical reactions to measure the levels of alcohol in a certain breath sample. It utilises an oxide sensor to record the changes to tin dioxide found within the sensor. Presence of ethanol creates a reaction between the alcohol and the tin dioxide, which subsequently alters the sensor’s resistance. The sensor measures the changes in the electrical resistance and correlates this with the blood alcohol consumption level.

What is a fuel cell sensor?

On the other hand, there are also breathalysers that make use of fuel cell sensors. Breathalysers with fuel cells typically have platinum electrodes that have the ability to oxidise alcohol. Once a breath sample with alcohol is measured, the fuel cell can easily oxidise the alcohol by a chemical reaction. The oxidation will then create an electrical current which is measured by the breathalyser to determine the BAC level.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a semi-conductor sensor?

  • A semi-conductor breathalyser is much more lightweight because of the materials used in its production.
  • It is created with the average consumer in mind, who only needs to estimate their BAC levels rather than record accurate measurements of it, as opposed to those who need more high-powered devices that are able to give higher measurements.
  • A semi-conductor breathalyser will also need less power to operate the device.
  • The semi-conductor breathalyser is far more affordable with relation to its fuel cell counterpart because of these aspects.
  • Generally, the lightweight materials, target consumers and low power components of a breathalyser all constitutes to its low price range.

However, these advantages come with a number of cons. The less expensive materials used to create these breathalysers exchange affordability for accuracy. Therefore, it isn’t highly recommended to use a semi-conductor if exact measurements and long term usage are necessary.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a fuel cell sensor?

The fuel cell sensor offers the consumer the advantage of far more accurate BAC readings. The fuel cell breathalyser detects alcohol specifically, as opposed to its semi-conductor counterpart, which may mistake other chemicals for alcohol and return an erroneous reading.

This type of breathalyser also needs less calibration and has a longer life span. It also took lesser time breaks between a certain number of readings, and can measure higher and more accurate alcohol levels.

The disadvantage to a fuel sensor is probably its expense. This type of breathalyser uses more expensive materials and more energy to power itself, making it the more expensive, albeit accurate, type of breathalyser.

A fuel cell breathalyser, which uses a fuel cell to create an electric current that it will measure to calculate BAC, is the more expensive and professional one. It offers the user highly accurate, consistent, and reliable readings. On the other hand, the semi-conductor breathalyser, which makes use of a chemical reaction between tin dioxide and alcohol, is only able to give estimations but also comes at a much lower price.

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