How Breathalyzers Work

Topics: Drunk driving, Alcoholic beverage, Breathalyzer Pages: 2 (652 words) Published: June 5, 2013
How Breathalyzers Work

Busted for driving under the influence? Let’s admit it, drinking is indeed fun, therefore it is one of the most popular activities across the world. It is even considered a basic need for some people and forms many cultures. After drinking, the safest way to get back home is either to take a taxi or to have your designated driver drive you home. Still, there are some stubborn ones who insist on driving back home even though they are aware that they had much to drink. That is why we have cops to clean up the drunk drivers from the streets and they carry a simple device called a breathalyzer. The term "breathalyzer" is actually the brand name of the breath-analyzing products manufactured by Smith and Wesson in the late 1950s, a huge improvement from "drunkometer".  You might have seen one on television, used on a person or even on you, but do you have any idea how it works? The most common scene that we see on TV is when somebody gets pulled over then a certain cop asks, “Have you been drinking?”. Cops frequently use breathalyzers to measure the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath because it’s considered a more accurate type of sobriety test. Alcohol is not immediately digested, it remains in the bloodstream after it has been ingested. Part of the blood passes in the lungs where traces of alcohol are released along with the expelled air and instantly detected by the breathalyzer. It consists of three things: a sampling system, a reaction chamber with two vials, and a detector. The cop will ask the drunk driver to blow through the mouthpiece for about 10 seconds, then part of the air that the suspect blows through the sampling system. In the sampling system, the breath is bubbled in a vial through a mixture of sulfuric acid, potassium dichromate, silver nitrate, and water. Each chemical has its function: the sulfuric acid removes the alcohol from the air into a liquid solution, the reddish-orange potassium dichromate reacts with the...
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