Tiny injectable chip could be used for long-term alcohol monitoring

long term alcohol monitoring chip screen shot 2018 04 05 at 19 06 36
University of California San Diego

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed a tiny ultra-low power biosensor that’s designed to be injected into the body for continuous alcohol monitoring. Unlike the wearable alcohol monitors we’ve previously covered at Digital Trends, which let drinkers know if they’re over the legal alcohol limit on individual nights out, the UC San Diego device is intended to be used for long-term monitoring of patients in substance abuse treatment programs.

The biosensor chip measures only 1 cubic millimeter in size. It can be injected under the skin in interstitial fluid, the fluid which surrounds the body’s cells. It contains three sensors. The first is coated with alcohol oxidase, an enzyme that reacts with alcohol to generate a byproduct which can be detected electrochemically. The second measures background signals, while the third detects pH levels. These last two levels are then canceled out to make the alcohol reading more accurate.

The resulting number can then be read on an associated device such as a smartwatch. Communication between the chip and the smartwatch is carried out using radio signals. These are transmitted by the watch and then reflected back by the chip in a modified form, which reveals how much alcohol has been detected in the bloodstream.

One of the most impressive parts of the wearable device is just how little power it requires in order to work. It needs just 970 nanowatts to function, which is around 1 million times less power than a smartphone uses to make a phone call. This not only preserves battery life for the wearable, but also avoids the device generating too much heat inside the body.

So far, the researchers have tested the chip in a lab experiment in which it was implanted in diluted human serum underneath layers of pig skin. Next, the researchers hope to test the chip in live animals. The group is also working on additional versions of the chip which could monitor the presence of other drugs in the body.

“This is a proof-of-concept platform technology,” Drew Hall, the electrical engineering professor who led the project, said in a statement. “We’ve shown that this chip can work for alcohol, but we envision creating others that can detect different substances of abuse and injecting a customized cocktail of them into a patient to provide long-term, personalized medical monitoring.”

Business

Apple is still selling iPhones in China despite being ordered not to

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Wearables

These are the best smartwatches for everything from fashion to fitness

Tempted to buy a smartwatch? If so, then the growing number of great models available means you've got plenty to choose from. But which one should you pick? Here is our list of the best smartwatches.
Smart Home

Alexa’s latest skill helps patients manage high blood pressure

People who need some help managing their high blood pressure are getting some help via a new Alexa skill developed in partnership with Omron Healthcare that will work directly with the manufacturer's monitors.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Emerging Tech

Researchers create a flying wireless platform using bumblebees

Researchers at the University of Washington have come up with a novel way to create a wireless platform: using bumblebees. As mechanical drones' batteries run out too fast, the team made use of a biology-based solution using living insects.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.