Engineers developing a breath-based ketone sampler for diabetics have switched gears to produce a hand-held marijuana breath analyzer just as our federal government begins to explore legalization.

The device — about the size of two fingers — is a Bluetooth-enabled breathalyzer that uses microfluidic technology and a selective gas sensor to detect tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The THC levels in a sample can be analyzed within seconds and the results delivered to a smartphone.

“There are other breath analyzers out there for THC, but what is different about ours is that our device is very selective,” said Mina Hoorfar, a professor of engineering at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. “We use micro-channels smaller than a human hair with a polymer coating that separates the gas molecules, so no matter what else you have eaten or ingested it will only register the molecule of interest.”

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