Did you ever wonder how breathalyzers work? There is a website which will give you a pretty fair idea.
There are many different kinds of â€œbreathalyzersâ€ or breath testing devices. The first of the modern breath testers, manufactured by Smith and Wesson many years ago was called the Breathalyzer.
When I was a young prosecutor we used to call the Smith and Wesson 900A the “Dial-a-Drunk” because the machine’s dial was able to be manipulated by the operator.
Since then, various manufacturers have recognized the growing market and come out with their own models, bearing such names as Intoxilyzer, Intoximeter, DataMaster, AlcoSensor, Alcotest and so on; most of these products have been produced in different model versions, such as the Intoxilyer 4011, 5000 and 8000.
To deal with the confusion, the term â€œbreathalyzerâ€ came to be used as a generic term for any breath testing instrument.
Most of these are evidentiary machines â€” that is, larger machines generally kept at the police station whose test results are used in evidence. Others are smaller, handheld units carried by officers in the field; generally called PBTs (preliminary breath tests) or PAS (preliminary alcohol screedning). These are less accurate and are usually used as a field sobriety test to help determine whether to arrest a suspect.
The original Breathalyzer operated using a wet chemical method of analysis, employing a disposable glass ampoule of chemicals. Although still occasionally found in law enforcement, this relatively primitive technology was replaced in later machines by infrared spectroscopy, gas chromatography or, mainly in handheld units, fuel cell analysis; a couple of the more recent machines use a combination of infrared and fuel cell.
Here is a great website explaining how these different types of machines work:
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