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Researchers develop cradle and Smartphone app to detect allergens in food

FBR Staff Writer Published 02 August 2013

Researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have developed a cradle and an app that can transform an iPhone into a biosensor capable of detecting allergens in food.

This device can be used by those with food allergies to conduct on-the-spot tests to identify food allergens. The device is also capable of detecting toxins, proteins, bacteria, viruses and other molecules.

The cradle and app use phone's built-in camera and processing power as a biosensor. The cradle holds the phone's camera in alignment with the optical components. It features a number of lenses and filters that are found in expensive laboratory devices.

Currently, the researchers are working to improve the manufacturing process for the iPhone cradle and are working to develop a cradle for Android phones as well. They plan to begin making the cradles available next year.

The research team recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the range of biological experiments that can be performed with the phone, in collaboration with Steven Lumetta, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and of computer science at the U. of I.

Team leader Brian T. Cunningham said that the team aims to expand the range of biological experiments that can be performed with a phone and its camera being used as a spectrometer.

"In our first paper, we showed the ability to use a photonic crystal biosensor, but in our NSF grant, we're creating a multimode biosensor. We'll use the phone and one cradle to perform four of the most widely used biosensing assays that are available," Cunningham added.