Skip to main content

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

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.”

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Google’s future baby monitor could spy on your kid to alert you before they cry
nest 3 pack security camera system amazon deal indoor

Future video monitors could warn parents before the baby starts crying -- a recently published patent details Google’s plans for an artificial intelligence system that tracks an infant’s eyes and movements as well as sounds to alert parents to unusual behavior. The patent, published on September 5 but filed last year, could create a smarter baby monitor that alerts parents when the baby is starting to stir or the toddler is attempting to scale the crib railing -- if parents are willing to let Google spy on their child.

The patent details a system that mixes a video monitor with A.I.-based software. By monitoring the baby’s eyes and movement, the camera could look for signs of discomfort that a traditional audio monitor wouldn’t detect. A baby that’s moving more than usual, the patent suggests, may be too hot or too cold.

Read more
The new Dolby Vision monitors from Asus could be perfect for creative types
asus dolby vision monitors creatives asusdv03

Asus made a colorful splash at this year's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show with the debut of two new professional monitors. They're the world's first desktop displays with native support for Dolby Vision, the HDR and wide-color gamut standard that made waves at CES this year when it showed up in a Panasonic television. It makes bright spots much brighter and dark sports much darker -- an important and potentially game-changing feature for professional desktop users.

On paper at least, Dolby Vision isn't dramatically different from other HDR standards like HDR10, but it does have a few unique aspects which could make it a popular choice for concent creators and media consumers. It adds another layer of metadata to an HDR signal that gives the display extra instructions on how to display the content on a scene by scene basis. That is designed to improve color accuracy, contrast, and detailing of an image. In an ideal world, it delivers a picture that is more accurate to the original creator's vision, and therefore potentially a better-looking image.

Read more
A tiny pebble could have caused the dramatic self-destruction of a 5-mile-long asteroid
asteroid gault yorp effect 6478

The asteroid 6478 Gault is seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, showing two narrow, comet-like tails of debris that tell us that the asteroid is slowly undergoing self-destruction. The bright streaks surrounding the asteroid are background stars. The Gault asteroid is located 214 million miles from the Sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. NASA, ESA, NASA, ESA, K. Meech and J. Kleyna (University of Hawaii), O. Hainaut (European Southern Observatory), L. Calçada

Hubble has observed something unusual in the sky -- a self-destructing asteroid called 6478 Gault, or simply Gault for short. But what caused it?

Read more