Lab-in-a-smartphone breakthrough enables mobile health diagnostics

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In Illinois, University of Illinois professors demonstrated a compact, inexpensive system that performs optical spectroscopy in a way that can fit inside the body of a mobile phone. The mobile device could provide health diagnostic tests and other measurements normally performed in a laboratory setting.

The lab-in-a-smartphone could accurately read liquid-based or paper-based medical tests in which the end result is a material that changes from one color to another in the presence of a specific analyte. The results could then be sent electronically to a physician, who could make a diagnosis and suggest a remedy without a patient needing to see that physician in person.

It uses inexpensive components and the same kind of LEDs being used for flash illumination in phones. A special component attached on top of a conventional smartphone image sensor was able to measure the light absorption of liquids and the scattering spectrum of solids.