Scan Your Food for E. Coli and Salmonella with This Smartphone-Based Bacteria Detector
As deeply as smartphones are integrated into our daily lives, it's no surprise that people are finding ways to use them to stay healthy. From detecting cancer and radiation to diagnosing STDs, phones have come a long way, baby.
The latest advancement comes from Aydogan Ozcan of UCLA. It's an incredibly cheap to make device that attaches to a smartphone and can detect Escherichia coli and Salmonella. The technology is a modified version of a device that Ozcan and his team made last year that identifies cells and bacteria. It's comprised of only four parts: a simple lens, plastic color filter, two LEDs, and a few batteries. Seriously, that's it.
It works a lot like a microscope, using a technique called flow cytometry. Once the device is attached to a smartphone, the contaminated sample goes through glass microcapillaries in the microscope that have anti-E. coli antibodies. This causes the bacteria to stick to the walls of the tubes. The LEDs shine ultraviolet light through the tubes, which feed into the phone's camera. Quantum dots, which are essentially tiny semiconductors, will reflect the light from the LEDs and turn bright red, which allows the concentration to be measured.
Ozcan plans for the technology to be available to the public by 2014 and says that each mobile detector will cost about $20-30. The applications in food safety are endless. The engineer says that inspectors could upload their data onto servers where outbreaks of different pathogens could be tracked across the globe, helping to prevent or contain them. While this probably won't be something that your average person will go out and buy, it's almost guaranteed to be the bane of every restaurant manager's existence.