UBC Okanagan engineering professor Mina Hoofar uses her ‘artificial nose’ technology to develop a roadside breathalyzer that can identify THC in breath molecules. (Photo: UBC Okanagan University Relations)

UBC Okanagan researchers develop roadside cannabis breathalyzers

Breath detection devices for high drivers soon to be in the hands of law enforcement

Researchers at UBC Okanagan will soon supply law enforcement with technology for roadside breathalyzers that can identify tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main component found in cannabis.

Engineering professor Mina Hoorfar has been working on a device using ‘artificial nose’ technology which uses microfabrication appliances that can detect hazardous molecules, in this case THC. Hoorfar runs the university’s Advanced Thermo-Fluidic Lab and has collaborated with Cannabix Technologies to commercialize a marijuana breathalyzer.

“We have responded to a need from regulators in North America to develop tools to accurately monitor THC and the artificial nose lends itself to this application,” said Hoorfar. “Advances in microfabrication and nanotechnologies are enabling us to work at a smaller scale and with improved sensitivity.”

READ MORE: Kelowna singer Scotty Berg to perform the national anthem at Canucks game in March

READ MORE: West Kelowna Warriors’ charity ringette game to benefit young superfan

A study of five leading styles of THC breathalyzers that are under development or being commercialized was done at UBC Okanagan, where a doctoral student Hamed Mirzaei analyzed the difficult science of breath sensors.

“Despite its large potential, breath analysis still has several technical difficulties,” said Mirzaei.

“A healthy person can exhale a complex mixture of inorganic gases and many of these chemicals are from sources such as smoking, food consumption, bacterial microflora, work environments and medication.”

READ MORE: Dangerous driving sentence expected to be complicated after 11-year-old B.C. girl left unresponsive

According to Hoorfar, everything from diet, age, body mass and gender can influence the composition of a person’s breath and can affect how well the breathalyzer sensors work. Hoorfar notes that THC is a tricky molecule in itself to work with due to its concentrations in breath can be quite low, estimated at 250 parts per trillion.

But, as cannabis becomes more used, Hoorfar said this type of technology is even more needed.

“With legalization of cannabis consumption in Canada and many parts of the U.S.A, it is vital to create and improve technologies for public safety and awareness,” said Hoorfar.

“Breath analysis is not only the fastest technology available but it’s also a reliable and portable method to detect recent cannabis use and impairment. We just need to create the perfect device.”

For more information on the research at UBC Okanagan, visit here.

To report a typo, email:


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UBC Okanagan to host Festival of Ideas with BC’s lieutenant governor

The inaugural event will feature a panel discussion with Janet Austin, B.C.’s lieutenant governor

AlleyCATS Okanagan: Pet of the week

Meet Softy a five-year-old Himalayan cat available for adoption

Largest aircraft to operate at YLW begins service to Toronto this summer

The Boeing 767-300ER will increase seat availability for flights to Toronto by 40 per cent

B.C. budget fails to ‘excite’ Kelowna business community

Chamber says Budget 2020 lacks a clearly defined competitiveness strategy

Kelowna divers ready to take on 2020 B.C. Winter Games

The athletes have been training four days a week

Galchenyuk nets shootout winner as Wild edge Canucks 4-3

Vancouver tied with Calgary for second spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

B.C.’s soda drink tax will help kids lose weight, improve health, says doctor

Dr. Tom Warshawski says studies show sugary drinks contribute to obesity

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

B.C. mom’s complaint about ‘R word’ in children’s ministry email sparks review

In 2020, the ‘R’ word shouldn’t be used, Sue Robins says

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett says they can be in Smithers Thursday

COLUMN: Democracies don’t always have to agree

In no democratic system of governance is there ever 100 per cent agreement on any issue

EDITORIAL: Revisiting cannabis regulations

Recent retail license application has brought up concerns about present policy in Summerland

Guidelines regulate Summerland cannabis stores

The municipality’s policy, 300.6 establishes the 50-metre buffer zone around schools and parks

Most Read