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Phone-based scanner detects harmful bacteria

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February 25, 2012

Scientists have created a scanner that can be attached to a mobile phone, to detect the pr...

Scientists have created a scanner that can be attached to a mobile phone, to detect the presence of E. coli bacteria in liquid samples

Soon, you may never have to play Russian roulette with potato salad again. Instead of just hoping that E. coli bacteria aren't present in your foods or drinks, you could instead use your mobile phone to find out for sure. That phone would have to be equipped with a bacteria-detecting scanner, which researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science recently created - in a prototype version, for now.

The device attaches to the phone's camera and incorporates semiconducting quantum dots, combined with a grouping of glass capillary tubes that contain antibodies. When E. coli bacteria from liquid samples are placed within the scanner, they are captured on the capillary surface, where they get "excited" by the light from built-in LED bulbs.

This reaction causes the quantum dots to emit florescent light, which is magnified by a lens located beneath the capillaries, and then captured by the phone's camera - essentially, the device scanner serves as an inexpensive miniature florescent microscope. The specific concentration of E. coli is determined by quantifying the amount of light being emitted within each tube.

So far, there's no word on when or if a commercial version of the device might be available.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal of The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Source: UCLA via Popular Science

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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