Understanding Fuel C...

Understanding Fuel Cells for Alcohol Measurement: Home, Ignition Interlock, Alcotest 9510, and Transdermal Devices

Fuel cells are used to measure alcohol in breath and across the skin.  The fuel cell converts alcohol to an electrical current which is measured to determine alcohol concentration.  While conceptually simple, fuel cells are structurally and physically complex.

The goal of this presentation is to understand fuel cells as used to measure breath and skin alcohol concentration.  The presentation will be divided into three parts. First, the structure of the fuel cell and the physics of fuel cell function will be covered.  These basic principles provide tools to evaluate fuel cell health.  Second, a variety of factors affect the performance of the fuel cells.   Improper control of these factors (e.g., water content, working temperature, contaminate alcohols, etc.) can lead to falsely elevated alcohol readings.  Third, four technologies using fuel cells (home monitoring, ignition interlock, evidential devices, and skin alcohol devices) will be reviewed and the limitations of fuel cell measurements within the context of these technologies will be discussed.


Dr. Joseph Anderson is the owner of Anderson Bioscience, a biotechnology consulting company, and an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington.  He has a PhD in chemical engineering and has published over 50 peer-reviewed publications and three book chapters.  Over the last 25 years, he has developed devices to treat severe emphysema and to assess fat metabolism through breath acetone measurement.  He continues to investigate the exchange of chemicals in the lung.

He has evaluated over 950 cases and testified nearly 300 times in courts across the US and Canada.  His testimony focuses on our new understanding of lung alcohol exchange and biologic factors affecting the measurement of alcohol in breath and above the skin.

1.25 Nexus Credits have been requested from the WSBA for this CLE. To register, email wda@defensenet.org with “Fuel Cell” in the subject line.