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Types of Alcohol Detectors

Alcohol addiction has severe harmful effects on physical health, mental health, and on society. Alcohol testing is done at workplaces, institutions, schools, industries, and colleges to prevent alcohol related accidents, crime, and injuries etc. There are a variety of alcohol detectors present in market used by law enforcement officers for effective alcohol detection. Alcohol detectors measure the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) by indirectly measuring alcohol in person’s breath. The three major types of alcohol detectors are Breathalyzers, Intoxilyzer, and Alcosensor.

Breathalyzer And Types Of Breathalyzers

Breathalyzers are the most commonly used alcohol detectors to measure the BAC approximately by measuring the alcohol in person’s breath. Breathalyzers are portable hand held devices which are easy to handle and provide quick results. Breathalyzers consists of three parts: a mouthpiece, two glass vials containing chemical reaction mixture, and photocells to measure color change. They are commonly used by law enforcement officers to check drunken driving on roads and highways.

Breathalyzers are available in many types from disposable screening testers to expensive digital read-out breath alcohol monitors. But they grossly fall under three categories: Evidential Breath Testing Devices, Non-Evidential Portable Hand Held Devices, and Disposable Devices. Evidential Breath Testing Devices are table top instruments intended for use at one location only. They are expensive, requires maintenance, calibration, handling by certified professional, and results are admissible in court. Non-Evidential portable hand held devices are used for preliminary screening purposes. These devices are less expensive and good for personal use. The results by these devices are not admissible in court. While, Disposable devices are used for preliminary screening. They are non-invasive, less accurate, and provide unclear estimate of alcohol present.

The breathalyzers are sensitive to various substances in environment like gasoline, paint removers etc which can give erroneous BAC level. The breathalyzers are also sensitive to temperature which can result in false results.


The Intoxilyzer manufactured by CMI, Inc. is based on Infrared (IR) spectroscopy and identifies ethanol by measuring the absorption of IR light by bonds of ethanol and change in wavelengths of ethanol bonds. The results through Intoxilyzer are accurate and court permissible. The Intoxilyzer is used when a person is suspected of DWI/DUI and brought to police station. The Intoxilyzer is not used for preliminary breath test (PBT) that is done at the DUI/DWI scene. The Intoxilyzers are also used in industrial testing and nuclear power plant testing applications.

The Alcosensor

The Alcosensor manufactured by Intoximeters Inc., is a hand held, portable preliminary breath test instrument which can be used onsite to measure BAC level. The instrument has been designed to use on field and can withstand rough field conditions. The Alcosensor is based on fuel cell (electrochemical sensor) technology. When a breath sample comes in contact with top surface of cell, any alcohol that is present is broken down chemically. These broken down alcohol molecules in turn triggers release of electrons in proportion to amount of alcohol present in sample. However, the results given by Alcosensor are not admissible in court.

The alcohol detectors provide an easy, convenient and quick way to check alcohol abuse at workplaces, schools, colleges, on roads, and highways. Breathalyzers, Intoxilyzer, and Alcosensor have made driving safe on highways by making it easy for law enforcement to crack down on DUI/DWI suspects.

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