A microscope to detect food pathogens that can be attached to a mobile phone could be commercially available within a year says its creator.
The lightweight technology is a miniaturised microscope without a lens that attaches to a phone and uses the camera to calculate the concentration of E.coli in a liquid sample within 30 minutes.
LUCAS (Lensless Ultra-wide-field Cell monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging) is formed on the idea that light passing through translucent objects interferes with itself and creates a pattern which can be used to mathematically reconstruct the microscopic image of the object without lenses.
It works by passing light through the slide sample to create shadow images that are captured by the camera sensor positioned below and then the image is deciphered by computers with specially-designed software.
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University of California associate professor of electrical engineering, Aydogan Ozcan, and his research team developed the attachment which they hope will be commercially available within 12 to 18 months.
Ozcan explained to FoodProductionDaily.com how the technology works.
“The pathogens are captured using micro-capillaries that have a special biochemical assay on their inner surface.
“The captured pathogens are then labelled by quantum dots, which emit light.
“The intensity of the emitted light determines the density of the pathogen contamination in the sample,” he said.
Ozcan said with sample preparation it takes around 30 minutes to an hour for the technology to detect pathogens.
“[It is a] rapid, cost-effective and field portable detection of various pathogens even in resource limited settings could be quite useful for global health.
“This recent E.coli sensor has been tested in our lab at UCLA. Commercialisation efforts are on-going at a Los Angeles based start-up company,” he said.
Ozcan added that the technology could be adapted for use in the medical sector.
“The same platform running on the cellphone could also be used for early diagnosis of infectious diseases, which could be quite useful for combating various global health challenges in developing countries.”