Nav: Home

Researchers develop spectroscopic 'science camera' system for smartphones

September 13, 2017

The latest versions of most smartphones contain at least two and sometimes three built-in cameras. Researchers at the University of Illinois would like to sell mobile device manufactures on the idea of adding yet another image sensor as a built-in capability for health diagnostic, environmental monitoring, and general-purpose color sensing applications.

Three years ago, the National Science Foundation provided a pair of University of Illinois professors with a grant to develop technology called "Lab-in-a-Smartphone." Over that time, the research teams of Brian Cunningham, Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering, and John Dallesasse, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, have published papers detailing potential ways the mobile devices could provide health diagnostic tests and other measurements normally performed in a laboratory setting.

Their latest efforts demonstrate that mobile devices incorporating their sensor can provide accurate measurements of optical absorption spectra of colored liquids or the optically scattered spectra of solid objects. In other words, a mobile device incorporating the lab-in-a-smartphone "science camera" 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 team successfully demonstrated a very compact inexpensive system that performs optical spectroscopy in a form factor that can fit inside the body of a phone. It uses inexpensive components and the same kind of LEDs being used for flash illumination in phones. By adding a special component attached on top of a conventional smartphone image sensor, they were able to measure the light absorption of liquids, and the scattering spectrum of solids.

"We have had several projects where we looked to use the sensing capabilities of smartphones and mobile devices for point-of-use biomedical tests or tests that could be performed away from the laboratory," Cunningham explained. "But in all the projects that we've worked on so far, there has been a cradle or some instrument that the phone has to be in contact with to perform the measurement."

However, their latest paper, "Integrated spectroscopic analysis system with low vertical height for measuring liquid or solid assays" published in Sensors and Actuators B details how a smartphone could directly be placed over a cartridge containing the liquid to measure the specific color of the liquid. The results could then be directly sent electronically to a physician, who could make a diagnosis and suggest a remedy without a patient needing to see that physician in person.

"To make it work, smartphone manufacturers would add a camera for science purposes," Cunningham said. "The pixels of the additional image sensor would have a linear variable filter glued on top of it that transforms the camera into a spectrometer. Since the component would be an integral part of the phone, the information generated by it can be seamlessly integrated with other information about the patient, and the test being performed, while interacting with a cloud-based smart service system that provides immediate actionable feedback."

To prove the concept, they accurately measured the liquids of a fetal fibronectin enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), a protein whose concentration is used to help determine the likelihood a pregnant woman would give birth prematurely. Kenny Long, an MD/PhD student in bioengineering, whose research has focused on clinical application of medical technologies, led that effort.

Other students/postdocs involved with the project include ECE graduate students John Carlson, Saoud Al-Mulla, Benjamin Kesler, and Patrick Su. Visiting scientist Yuhang Wan from Beihang University in China was the first-author of the paper, and visiting scientist Wang Peng from Huazhong University in China contributed to the effort.

"Without our approach, it is possible to roughly measure the color of an object using the red, green and blue pixel intensities in a smartphone image," Cunningham said. "However, you get more rich information when you measure the whole spectrum and can extend the detected wavelengths into the infrared."

More specifically, this technology uses illumination from a bank of light emitting diodes (LEDs), which is gathered into a cylindrical plastic rod. The rod collimates the light and sends it to a test point in front of the camera. The system allows only one wavelength to pass through to the camera at a time, but the selected wavelength is linearly variable across the width of the camera. The component used in the system, called a Linear Variable Filter (LVF), looks like a ~2x8 mm2 thin piece of glass that is glued on top of the camera's pixels, so it performs wavelength separation without using vertical space, like conventional spectrometers do.

"We developed an LVF spectrometer by simply gluing the filter component over the pixels of a conventional image sensor," said Cunningham. "It is a wavelength transmission filter that is graded from the left side to the right side, to allow blue light through on the left and red light through on the right, and every other wavelength in between. If you shine one wavelength through the entire filter, light will only pass through to the image sensor at one location. When many wavelengths pass through at one time, the image sensor's pixel intensities represent a spectrum of the light"

The technology has specific impact on developing countries or rural areas, where getting to a doctor's office is can be challenging. The same methodology demonstrated in the paper can be applied to quantitatively detecting biomarkers for nutrition, cardiac health, sepsis, cancer, pregnancy, infectious disease, drugs of abuse, hormones, and many others.

Cunningham has had several conversations with smartphone manufacturers on his discoveries over the past few years and understands that to convince them to add yet another camera to a phone, there must be compelling consumer applications. To that end, their publication shows that the component can measure the spectrum of light scattered off solid surfaces, to observe subtle differences, using colored paper and pH test strips as representative examples.

"In addition to measuring health diagnostic tests, the sensor could measure all sorts of fun things too," Cunningham said. "For instance, it could be used to measure the color of everyday objects, such as your shirt or for matching the color of the sky to the paint color in your living room. It would be very useful for graphic artists, photographers, architects, and citizen scientists."

Fundamentally, though, he is hoping to take advantage of a landscape where phone companies are already thinking about using their devices for mobile health.

"I think mobile health is going to mean medical diagnostic tests for nutrition or wellness, a service that the major smartphone companies can help provide," Cunningham said. "They are looking for ways that healthcare can fold in with their capabilities. We're hoping to find companies that are interested in differentiating their phone from others by having this capability."
-end-


University of Illinois College of Engineering

Related Smartphone Articles:

Don't rely on smartphone apps to treat back pain
University of Sydney researchers have found that smartphone apps for treating back pain have questionable value as they are generally of poor quality, and have not been rigorously evaluated.
App uses smartphone compass to stop voice hacking
A University at Buffalo-led team of engineers is creating an app to stop voice hacking.
Smartphone-controlled cells help keep diabetes in check
Cells engineered to produce insulin under the command of a smartphone helped keep blood sugar levels within normal limits in diabetic mice, a new study reports.
Smartphone addiction leads to personal, social, workplace problems
Excessive smartphone use leads to problems, and females are especially susceptible to addiction, according to new research from Binghamton University- State University of New York.
Using a smartphone to screen for male infertility
Investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital set out to develop a home-based diagnostic test that could be used to measure semen quality using a smartphone-based device.
Smartphone interruptions: Are yours relentless and annoying?
Does your smartphone spew a relentless stream of text messages, push alerts, social media messages and other noisy notifications?
Live cell imaging using a smartphone
A recent study from Uppsala University shows how smartphones can be used to make movies of living cells, without the need for expensive equipment.
Smartphone apps may help study cardiovascular health, behaviors
In a study published online by JAMA Cardiology, Euan A.
Smartphone app for early autism detection being developed by UB undergrad
Early detection of autism can dramatically improve the benefits of treatment, but often the disability is not suspected until a child enters school.
Increased smartphone screen-time associated with lower sleep quality
Exposure to smartphone screens is associated with lower sleep quality, according to a study published Nov.

Related Smartphone Reading:

52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid: How to Engage with Kids Who Can’t Seem to Pry Their Eyes from Their Devices!
by Jonathan McKee (Author)

In 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid, author Jonathan McKee offers just the help you need to have meaningful interaction with your kids instead of always overreacting to their unhealthy consumption of technology and media. In a world where over 80 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds now own a smartphone, parents are searching for ways to pry their kids’ eyes from their devices and engage them in real, face-to-face conversation. Mckee--drawing from his 20-plus years of experience working with teenagers, studying youth culture, and raising three teens of his... View Details


In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 6
by J-Novel Club

16-year-old Mochizuki Touya continues everyday life in his new world, well aware that it could all come tumbling down at any moment. He's the budding administrator of Babylon, the fledgling grand duke of Brunhild, and now he's a... mecha pilot? Desperate to find a way to halt the incoming Phrase onslaught, Touya makes a mad dash for the Hangar of Babylon, hoping it can give him the edge he needs. What he finds is the Frame Gear, an ancient humanoid fighting machine! Join Touya and his ever-growing band of wives as they tap into their mechanical sides. All systems standby for a tale of swords,... View Details


In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 7
by J-Novel Club

16-year-old Mochizuki Touya has it all. Grand Duke of an upstart nation, inventor of goods ranging from hula hoop to caramelized popcorn, administrator of Babylon, and pilot of the Anti-Phrase Frame Gears. The western nations love him... but darker machinations unfurl in the far east. Yulong, the glorious Empire of Heaven, regards Touya with envious eyes, brazen enough to send assassins into Brunhild! To make matters worse, the mysterious young girl known as Sakura seems to have a connection with these dark assailants. In the background, dark forces gather. Something big approaches. Something... View Details


The Smartphone Photography Guide: Shoot*Edit*Experiment*Share
by Peter Cope (Author)

Thanks to our smartphones, we've all become camera-carrying photographers, able to snap a photo whenever and wherever we want. But how can we realize the full potential of this powerful tool? Complete with "Pro Tips," "Try This" panels, jargon-buster explanations of technical terms, and advice on video settings, this smart guide will help you take, create, manipulate, and share your phone images like an expert. View Details


In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 3
by J-Novel Club

Stalwart as ever, 16-year-old Mochizuki Touya heads off to the far eastern land of Eashen with his party in tow. For what purpose? The Matriarch of the Fairy Clan wishes to delve into some ancient ruins, of course! But it's never quite that simple for Touya and his friends, oh no. The party is thrust into the midst of a clash between the warlords Takeda Schingen and Tokugawa Ieyahsu, while a nefarious necromancer makes his move in the shadows...
View Details


In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 1
by J-Novel Club

After a freak accident involving some lightning winds up zapping him dead, 15-year-old Mochizuki Touya wakes up to find himself face-to-face with God. “I am afraid to say that I have made a bit of a blunder...” laments the old coot. But all is not lost! God says that he can reincarnate Touya into a world of fantasy, and as a bonus, he gets to bring his smartphone along with! So begins Touya's adventure in a new, anachronistic pseudo-medieval world. Friends! Laughs! Tears! Inexplicable Deus ex Machina! He sets off on a journey full of wonder as he absentmindedly travels from place to... View Details


Android Phones For Dummies
by Dan Gookin (Author)

Your full-color guide to putting your Android to work for you

Your smartphone is essentially your lifeline—so it's no wonder you chose a simple-to-use, fun-to-customize, and easy-to-operate Android. Cutting through intimidating jargon and covering all the features you need to know about your Android phone, this down-to-earth guide arms you with the knowledge to set up and configure your device, get up and running with texting and emailing, access the Internet, navigate with GPS, synch with a PC, and so much more.

Whether you're new to Android phones or have just upgraded to a... View Details


TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?
by Dr James A. Roberts (Author)

With his current effort, Dr. Roberts asks readers if they may be getting “Too Much of a Good Thing” regarding their smartphone use. This is no hoity-toity treatise but a fun and humorous look at our attachment (addiction?) to our smart phones. In chapter two you can respond to 12 short statements and see for yourself. Are you addicted to your smart phone? And, if you are, “What’s the big deal?” In chapter three, experts tell us whether we can actually be addicted to our smart phones. The act of phubbing (phone snubbing) and its impact on your relationships is broached in chapters... View Details


In Another World With My Smartphone: Volume 2
by J-Novel Club

Undeterred by his untimely death on Earth, 15-year-old Mochizuki Touya continues to meander around in another world! After a series of misadventures, the young man has assembled a motley crew of adventurers including the timid mage Linze, the feisty brawler Elze, the ever-hungry samurai Yae, and even the young archer Yumina, heir to the Belfast throne. Together with his party (and a divine white tiger), Touya sets his sights on the horizon, heading for the demi-human kingdom of Mismede! But all is not what it seems... the beastman king issues a personal challenge, and a black-scaled dragon... View Details


Smartphones: Each & Everything You Want to Know about Your Smartphone (How To Buy Best # 1) (Volume 1)
by J. A. Khanzada (Author)

Are you want to purchase a new smartphone, but didn’t know which one and always look towards the guys you think know better about them or someone else for guidance? If yes, then this book is for you. By reading this book not only you will be able to select best smartphone available in the market all by yourself but you will be expert about the smartphone features like hardware, software, Operating Systems, Cameras, Connectivity, and much much more. You will also be the person to show-off your knowledge about smartphones as well as guide others persons around you. In this book, I started to... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Big Five
What are the five biggest global challenges we face right now — and what can we do about them? This hour, TED speakers explore some radical solutions to these enduring problems. Guests include geoengineer Tim Kruger, president of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband, political scientist Ian Bremmer, global data analyst Sarah Menker, and historian Rutger Bregman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#456 Inside a Conservation NGO
This week we take a close look at conservation NGOS: what they do, how they work, and - most importantly - why we need them. We'll be speaking with Shyla Raghav, the Climate Change Lead at Conservation International, about using strategy and policy to tackle climate change. Then we'll speak with Rebecca Shaw, Lead Scientist at the World Wildlife Fund, about how and why you should get involved with conservation initiatives.