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General FAQ

Question ID:
 384
Link Title:
 Fuel Cell Information
Link:
Section:
 Sensing Technologies
SubPart:
 Fuel Cells

Electrochemical Sensors, also known as fuel cells, have many advantages that make them attractive for use as the primary sensor in evidential breath testing devices. The fuel cell’s inherent specificity for alcohol makes it a superior means of measuring alcohol in a breath sample. No substance remaining in a subject’s breath after a short deprivation period will create a reaction in the cell – except alcohol. Fuel cells have become recognized in the scientific and forensic community as accurate and reliable.

The fuel cell is linear in its response to alcohol, making it easy to calibrate. Fuel cells are small which can help reduce the size and cost of components needed to house the cell. In addition, fuel cells are robust and require only minimal power to operate.
Modern fuel cells using Intoximeters’ patented algorithms provide excellent repeatability and hold calibration over long periods of time. All of these features, combined with the relatively low cost of fuel cell instruments, are attractive to our users.
Categories: Fuel Cells, General
Question ID:
 397
Link Title:
 Fuel Cell Paper
Link:
Section:
 Sensing Technologies
SubPart:
 Fuel Cells

Integrating the fuel cell output is a patented method for interpreting the information generated from the sensor. This technique was essential in solving several of the technical issues that caused many to believe that fuel cell instruments would always remain screening instruments.  Integration effectively eliminates the “slumping” effect seen in sensing devices that used “peak” analysis techniques.  As well, integration has allowed for longer term calibrations.

Categories: Fuel Cells, General
Question ID:
 405
Link:
Section:
 Sensing Technologies
SubPart:
 Fuel Cells

Yes, fuel cells are electrochemical sensors. The electrochemical fuel cell sensor generates an electronic response that is proportional to the Breath Alcohol Concentration in the provided breath sample. The fuel cell sensor is specific for alcohol. It does not respond to acetone or other substances that can be found in human breath.

Categories: Fuel Cells, General
Question ID:
 412
Link:
Section:
 Sensing Technologies
SubPart:
 Fuel Cells

No, each manufacturer has its own technique to build the sensor and case.  Intoximeters uses a patented case design that allows for not only faster cleanup after use, but also the highest degree of accuracy and stability in the industry.

Categories: Fuel Cells, General
Question ID:
 427
Link:
Section:
 Sensing Technologies
SubPart:
 Fuel Cells

Yes, the Intox EC/IR as well as the Alco Sensor IV / RBT IV are widely used for evidential testing.  Most recently, the Alco-Sensor VXL @Point of Arrest System is being introduced as a roadside evidential system.

Categories: Fuel Cells, General
Question ID:
 434
Link Title:
 Fuel Cell Paper
Link:
Section:
 Sensing Technologies
SubPart:
 Fuel Cells

Electrochemical sensors have limited inherent response to potential interferants. There have been many studies done indicating that naturally occuring compounds in human breath do not significantly affect fuel cells.

If a subject ingests a non-ethanol substance that somehow produces alcohol in the mouth, a 15-20 minute waiting period during which the subject is not allowed to introduce anything into the oral cavity will eliminate this as the source of a positive alcohol result.
Categories: Fuel Cells, General
Question ID:
 440
Link:
Section:
 Sensing Technologies
SubPart:
 Fuel Cells

Current fuel cell life expectancy averages between 7 and 9 years.  However, operating conditions and environmental factors can affect the life of the fuel cell.

Some tips for prolonging the life of a fuel cell include:
  • Avoid exposing the cell to cigarette smoke, both in breath samples and in the ambient environment.
  • Avoid storing the device in extreme temperatures.
  • Use the device regularly.  Leaving the instrument in storage can cause the cell to dry out, which reduces its useful life.
  • Never submerge the instrument in any liquid or introduce liquid of any kind into the breath inlet or fuel cell port.
  • Avoid repeated use of breath sprays and mouthwashes to simulate positive results when training or demonstrating the device.
Categories: Fuel Cells, General
Question ID:
 446
Link Title:
 Factory Recertification
Link:
Section:
 Sensing Technologies
SubPart:
 Fuel Cells

Average fuel cell life is 7 to 9 years, depending on use. As a fuel cell ages, it begins to take longer for the sensor to produce the information needed to calculate the result. The slowness of the cell does not mean it cannot produce consistent and accurate results. However, if the speed to result is an issue for the user, the slow response of an older cell could be a limiting factor that determines when to change the cell. 

The best indicator for a user to determine if a sensor requires replacement is if it will not consistently maintain calibration. This is not to say that a sensor that goes out of calibration once should be replaced, but if an instrument proves to be unable to maintain its calibration over long periods of time (months, or even years), the unit should be inspected by a technician. In order to reduce the likelihood that an instrument ever has a fuel cell that goes bad in the field, Intoximeters offers a preventative maintenance program called a “Recertification”. Click on the link below to learn about this program.

Categories: Fuel Cells, General

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