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Turn Your iPhone Into a Biomed Lab

Bored with your iPhone? Try turning it into a low-cost spectrophotometer. Some researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have come up with a an iPhone app and a cradle packed with biosensor technology that will let users detect toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses and other biological material.

The sensors could allow people to run field tests to spot poisons, measure food safety, and even make medical diagnoses using an iPhone.

Using the built-in camera, the phone takes a picture of a normal microscope slide, which the app analyzes for differences in wavelength that a photonic crystal built into the cradle can reflect.

We’re interested in biodetection that needs to be performed outside of the laboratory. Smartphones are making a big impact on our society – the way we get our information, the way we communicate. And they have really powerful computing capability and imaging. A lot of medical conditions might be monitored very inexpensively and non-invasively using mobile platforms like phones. They can detect molecular things, like pathogens, disease biomarkers or DNA, things that are currently only done in big diagnostic labs with lots of expense and large volumes of blood.
—Brian Cunningham, professor of electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering, University of Illinois

According to the researchers, the relatively low-cost system (the optical components in the cradle amount to about $200) can perform as accurately as a $50,000 laboratory spectrophotometer. The data captured and analyzed by the spectrophotometer application can also be geocoded, which can potentially add another layer of usefulness.

You can read more about the system in the journal Lab on a Chip, and see a video below:

Source: University of Illinois

About Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.