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Posted by on Jun 2, 2013 in Hardware News |

Convert a smartphone in spectrophotometer for biochemical analysis

Convert a smartphone in spectrophotometer for biochemical analysis

A group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana, Champaign have designed an accessory device and software that turns iPhone into a high resolution spectrometer.

The portable system has the ability to perform key biochemistry and molecular biology to detect toxins, pathogens and allergens.

These field measurements require, in principle, a laboratory analysis. With this apparatus will now be identified quickly and inexpensively, a contamination in the water, on the ground, or in food, and in some cases, up to certain viruses.

What does a spectrophotometer

The spectrophotometric method of analysis is the most widely used optical and research. All substances absorb light radiation in the visible spectrum, ultraviolet or infrared. Absorption of radiation, depends on the structure of molecules, and is characteristic for each substance.

When light passes through a substance, some of the energy is absorbed. The color of the substances is that they absorb certain wavelengths of white light falling on them and only let through our eyes those wavelengths not absorbed.

The is an instrument for comparing the light radiation absorbed or transmitted by a solution containing an unknown amount of solute, and one containing a known amount of the same substance. According to Beer’s law, the amount of light absorbed by a substance depends on the concentration in solution.

Convert a smartphone in spectrophotometer for biochemical analysis image 2

A handheld spectrophotometer for only $ 200

The accessory device created by researchers, is presented in the form of a docking station, which is placed an iPhone (it is also developing an Android version), whom he positioned with an inclination to its optical sensor used.

Inside the coupling device is a combination of lenses and optical filters including a photonic crystal reflects a single wavelength of light, while the rest of the spectrum passes through the same. If a biological or biochemical component (protein, cell, DNA pathogen) is present in the photonic crystal, will produce a light spectrum.

For analysis, slides a microscope glass slide coated with a photonic material in the cartridge from the machine (see video).

The measurement is controlled from an application installed on the iPhone, which activates the camera sensor. The wavelength reflected materializes in the form of a black space in the spectrum. By measuring the degree of change in the reflected wavelength, the application can assess the amount of molecules in the sample. It only takes a few minutes to complete the full analysis.

The docking station costs only $ 200. It is according to its designers, the system is as effective as a $ 50,000 spectrophotometer used in laboratories.

In the following video, the team from the University of Illinois presents his system.

Soon a version for Android

Professor Brian Cunningham, director of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois, explains that the development work aimed at several objectives. First, it is necessary to develop a test for deficiencies in vitamin A and D that can affect children and pregnant women. Researchers also want to cover several categories of biological analysis such as the detection of the DNA sequence of pathogenic bacteria, the detection of toxins in harvested grain, or the detection of HIV.

“We are also developing a new docking station for Android smartphones and a new cartridge for the storage compartment to facilitate testing,” says Professor Cunningham, who is in talks with investors and companies interested in commercializing this technology. “We hope to develop a standard product for next year,” he concludes.

Link: Comment transformer in spectrophotomètre smartphone (


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