Fuel Cell vs. Semiconductor

Few investments in personal and family safety have a higher potential for positive economic, educational, and emotional impact as does the uset of a precision alcohol breath tester to prevent a drunk driving incident. Consider the range of possible life altering consequences from a one-time abuse of alcohol.

Important Note: Monitoring of self or others is recommended to help prevent driving while impaired, not to determine suitability to drive over or under any legal limit.  Alcohol impairment begins occurring at BAC levels much lower than the legal limit, so the only sensible mandate remains:

Personal breath alcohol testers are available in all ranges of accuracy, reliability and price. Many are not to be trusted and should not be considered by serious users. These units are the mass produced semiconductor devices, imported and typically sold based on price by mass market internet, catalog, and store retailers.

Personal breath testers fall into two classes depending on the alcohol sensing technology employed, Fuel Cell or Semiconductor. Serious users should always choose fuel cell breath testers. Semiconductor devices are inappropriate for those interested in accurate BAC measurement.

Fuel Cell Breath Testers (LifeGuard)

Fuel cell breathalyzers are the ‘gold standard’ of hand-held alcohol testers for both personal and professional use. They are the choice of professional users such as Law Enforcement and serious personal users such as concerned parents and individuals who require measurement they can trust.

In fuel cell instruments, the breath is directed into a fuel cell with dual platinum electrodes where alcohol is oxidized and generates electrical current. The higher the alcohol content of the breath, the greater the output current of the fuel cell. This current is a direct indication of the amount of alcohol consumed by the fuel cell. By precisely measuring the current produced in the fuel cell, an accurate measure of Breath alcohol content (BAC) is recorded.

LifeGuard uses the Platinum Fuel Cell Technology that has the following performance characteristics not found in semiconductor devices.

Know the Dangers and Limitations of Semiconductor Breathalyzers

Download our Free White Paper: Evaluation of Consumer Breath Alcohol Analyzers

This free whitepaper examines the accuracy and reliability of popular consumer breathalyzers as compared to their marketing statements.


In semiconductor devices a sensor is formed from a small and inexpensive bead of metal oxide, heated to somewhere around 300 °C. A voltage is applied to produce a small standing current. When alcohol or other substances come into contact with this bead, they change the surface resistivity and so too the standing current. The change in current is used to measure the concentration of the substance in the sample.

The drawbacks to semiconductor accuracy, reliability and trustworthiness include:

More Information:

Volvo's Fuel Cell In-Car Breathalyzer - Why put a fuel cell into a car's powertrain when you can instead put it into a little device to see if the driver is drunk? That's what Volvo has done....Read more.