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American researchers develop smartphone add-on to detect food allergens

FBR Staff Writer Published 24 December 2012

A small device that works along with a smartphone has been developed by California university researchers which will help in detecting even minute particles of allergens such as peanuts in foods.

The device, called iTube, has been developed by University of California, Los Angeles' Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science researchers, led by engineering professor Aydogan Ozcan.

Attached to a cell phone, iTube uses the phone's built-in camera, along with an accompanying smart-phone application that runs a test with the same level of sensitivity like a general laboratory.

Weighing less than 60g, the attachment analyses an allergen-concentration test, called colorimetric assay.

To test allergens, food samples are first ground up and mixed with hot water and an extraction solvent in the test tube and then this mixture is gradually allowed to settle down.

The sample is then further mixed with several other reactive testing liquids and this entire preparation is expected to take around 20 minutes.

Once the sample is ready, it is then measured optically for allergen concentration through the iTube platform, with the help of the cell phone's camera and a smart application on the phone.

The kit digitally transforms images from the camera into concentration measurements detected in the food samples.

Besides providing a positive or negative result to the presence of allergens in the sample, the test can also quantify allergen concentrations in parts per million (ppm).

The iTube platform can test several allergens, including peanuts, almonds, eggs, gluten and hazelnuts, according to Ozcan.