Doctor Aydogan Ozcan‘s new smartphone-based food chemistry lab is an iTube that uses a standard cellphone camera to analyze a food’s chemical composition. A user need only pop a chunk of food into one of the two wee test tubes attached to the phone, wait 20 minutes, and presto! laboratory results, in parts per million.
Ozcan, a professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, specializes in re-engineering cell phones into tools. He invented, for example, an inexpensive microscope that could be used to test blood for malaria parasites or the HIV virus.
He envisions the iTube as a tool for schools, restaurants and, of course, parents of children with food allergies. Users of the minilab could upload their results to a personal database or share the results with people around the world to create a crowdsourced food allergy database.
Ozcan recently tested the iTube prototype with store-bought cookies and found that his device accurately identified the presence of peanuts. The results are published online in the journal Lab on a Chip.
posted by Tiffany Haslacker