An iPhone camera and a thin film could allow for home health tests & portable security scr...

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 11
A paper to be published by the Royal Society of Chemistry demonstrated the use of an iPhone SE and a thin film to generate a low-cost mass spectrometry sensor, potentially making comprehensive home health bodily fluid screening to the home, and broadening the use of the technology in security applications.




In testing, researchers with Vanderbilt University and the University of Miami developed a method for obtaining usable data from porous silicon through a combination of manual and automatic techniques. With the right surface coating, the team's cheap, nanoscale films are able to capture molecules that darken the silicon.





The manual half of the equation first involves turning on the the iPhone SE that they used for testing, turning on the flash, and enabling video recording for 3 minutes until the light source stabilizes. Following the startup procedure, a sample is twice inserted, recorded for 1 minute, and removed. The resulting data is uploaded to the cloud for processing and analysis.




Conceivably the technology could be used in everything from urinalysis and water testing to security screenings, catching drugs or explosives on the spot. There's no indication yet that the researchers plan to commercialize the technology themselves.

Spectrometry is an essential part of scientific research, used to determine the chemical composition of everything from food to distant stars. Given that mass spectrometry units can cost up to millions of dollars, the breakthrough has potential in education at all levels as well.

Commercial use on iPhones would presumably require a streamlined app, and likely simplified hardware for the sake of test samples. The promise in theory is a one-size-fits-all spectrometry tool, rather than a multitude of disposable tests for different tasks.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 8
    The Tricorder is coming!!!!
    mike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 8
    “Please pee on the yellow icon to continue”
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 3 of 8
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    Mass specs can cost a million. But they also cost in the low thousands. I had one in my lab for qualitative analysis.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 8
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,597member
    melgross said:
    Mass specs can cost a million. But they also cost in the low thousands. I had one in my lab for qualitative analysis.
    “Low thousands” is still far more expensive than the cost of a smartphone, which for these purposes is $0 (the patient already has it for other purposes). A minimum of five minutes (as seen in the flowchart) doesn’t exactly equate to “on the spot” drug checks, but it could be used to encourage home testing and speed up field testing at a lower cost, so this is an exciting technology with great promise. As with the Apple Watch’s ECG tech, it won’t be (and isn’t designed to be) the last word when something unusual pops up, but it will help pre-screen for various conditions and could prove to be an inexpensive “big help.”
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 8
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    chasm said:
    melgross said:
    Mass specs can cost a million. But they also cost in the low thousands. I had one in my lab for qualitative analysis.
    “Low thousands” is still far more expensive than the cost of a smartphone, which for these purposes is $0 (the patient already has it for other purposes). A minimum of five minutes (as seen in the flowchart) doesn’t exactly equate to “on the spot” drug checks, but it could be used to encourage home testing and speed up field testing at a lower cost, so this is an exciting technology with great promise. As with the Apple Watch’s ECG tech, it won’t be (and isn’t designed to be) the last word when something unusual pops up, but it will help pre-screen for various conditions and could prove to be an inexpensive “big help.”
    I’m not saying it cheap, by phone standards. But this tech they’re talking about will be very primitive when compared to even a modern $2,000 mass spec. It will only be able to detect a very few things, and possibly, from what I’m understanding, need a different film for each molecule. That will get clumsy, and bring that price up. We could be talking about hundreds for a basic unit. Cheap, but not really mass market.

    i brought the prices up because they were making it seem as though we’re going from mass specs in the millions to this, with nothing in between. Far from it.
    NoFliesOnMelolliverFileMakerFellerjony0
  • Reply 6 of 8
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,606member
    This technique is not mass spectrometry, it is optical spectrometry. Mass spectrometry discriminates between species based on differing masses, hence, mass spectrometry. This technique does not do that. (Samples might differentiate by mass during the process but the separate masses would not be directly discerned.) Spectrometry in general though in its various forms, is a powerful experimental and diagnostic tool, central to much of what has been achieved in physics, medicine, chemistry and other fields.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 7 of 8
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,744member
    iqatedo said:
    This technique is not mass spectrometry, it is optical spectrometry. Mass spectrometry discriminates between species based on differing masses, hence, mass spectrometry. This technique does not do that. (Samples might differentiate by mass during the process but the separate masses would not be directly discerned.) Spectrometry in general though in its various forms, is a powerful experimental and diagnostic tool, central to much of what has been achieved in physics, medicine, chemistry and other fields.
    Yes. I wasn't even thinking that far. You’re right.
    iqatedowatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 8
    airnerdairnerd Posts: 664member
    Sounds like a promising POC.  If it works then we could see Apple, or some other company, getting rid of all the extra cost parts that aren't needed like front facing camera and maybe some internals.  That would make the product even cheaper.  The most promising part of all of this is that tech readily available to the consumer is becoming refined enough that it can have medical applications.  That opens the doors to more research.  Not saying any of this will replace standard labs, but for an initial pass or testing in the field it could become great for triage.  Weed out the cases we don't need to send for more analysis or more expensive testing methods.  
    watto_cobra
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