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Supporting the prevention of alcohol-related road accidents

Person Blowing in Breathalyzer

EMPIR project develops certified reference materials for breath testing

EMPIR project 16RPT02 Certified forensic alcohol reference materials is seeking to address the problem of a lack of the Certified Reference Materials (CRMs) that are required to calibrate breath analysers used to estimate the alcohol content in a breath sample. At the start of this project, only two European NMIs could produce these solutions, which are used to generate calibration gases similar to human breath.The CRMs have defined concentrations of alcohol, and are traceable to the SI. Wider access to certified reference materials will allow manufacturers of breath anlysers to meet common standards and so support better enforcement of drink driving laws across Europe.

Eleven institutes across Europe are participating in the project, with the aim of building up long-term production capabilities to produce these materials and perform inter-laboratory comparisons to support their Calibration and Measurement Capabilities (CMCs).

There have already been a number of project successes, including:

  • IAPR, representing Greece’s Designated Institute, submitted an improved CMC claim with lower uncertainties for the quantification of ethanol in water
  • TUBITAK submitted a new CMC claim for the quantification of ethanol in water
  • DMDM acquired a new end-user of their CRMs
  • The project consortium received a request for training in preparation of ethanol in water CRMs by MIRS, the Metrology Institute of the Republic of Slovenia. A training course is planned in autumn 2019.

It is hoped that by the end of the project in 2020 all participating members will be in a position to offer these services to their respective law enforcement agencies.

Rosemarie Philipp, the Project Coordinator, said ‘The International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) sets high standards for the type approval and calibration of evidential breath alcohol analysers. Certified ethanol in water reference materials traceable to the SI with low uncertainties will meet these requirements. Therefore, usage of CRMs will improve the accuracy of breath alcohol control on the road.’      


This EMPIR project is co-funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and the EMPIR Participating States.

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