People who are trying to combat alcohol addiction will be able to find help with a chip created by bioengineers at the University of California in the United States. The experimental prototype was presented at the “Custom Integrated Circuits Conference” in San Diego, with several interesting features: it is extremely small, measuring just one cubic millimeter, it is easily injectable under the skin, and it is also able to continuously monitor blood alcohol levels.
How does it work? The device contains a micro-sensor coated in an enzyme, alcohol oxidase, which interacts with alcohol, generating an electrochemically detectable molecule. The electrical signals are then transmitted wirelessly to another device which records the data, and which is worn like a wristwatch. The “watch” itself also provides energy to the chip wirelessly, though the energy required is minimal, comparable to one million times less power than that is needed to make a call with a smartphone. Presently, only laboratory tests on the new chip have been carried out, in environments which resemble the interstitial fluids present in the first layers under human skin, where the device will be positioned in the future. Testing on live animals will soon begin, to be followed by humans. The researchers contend that this device will be suitable for future monitoring of other substances in the blood, such as narcotics or other drugs.