Drunkometer – the birth of the breathalyzer - AlcoDigital

So where did it all start??

With the wonderfully named ‘Drunkometer’ designed by Dr Rolla Neil Harga of Indiana University who invented the first successful device for testing human blood alcohol content in 1931. 

Described as being more a miniature laboratory, the Drunkometer consisted of a breath-test balloon inside a machine which collected the sample, and then forced the collected air through potassium permanganate crystals.  The more alcohol in the breath, the more acetic acid produced, the bigger the colour change of the crystals. 

Much like the AlcoChecks we sell today (which were in use by the Police until digital breathalyzers took over) albeit on a less than pocket-sized basis!

Robert Borkenstein

Then in 1954, Robert Borkenstein designed the first hand-held Breathalyzer capable of accurately measuring the blood-alcohol content of a sample. 

Whereas the Drunkometer required calibration each time it was moved, the newly-designed Breathalyzer used chemical oxidation and photometry to discern the results,  and was truly portable and therefore perfect for roadside use by Police and Law Enforcement.

And so an industry was born…

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2 Comments

  1. Bruce 27th January 2010 Reply

    Robert Borkenstein – what a picture! With such a fine invention, no wonder he is so happy. It is amazing how small and effective your products are in comparison with his ‘hand held’ device. Great website and blogs – look forward to hearing more!

    • suzannah 27th January 2010 Reply

      Not exactly ‘pocket-sized’ that first one, eh? Somehow cannot imagine it holding up in front of Dragons Den!

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