New handheld spectral analyzer uses power of smartphone to detect disease

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed technology that enables a smartphone to perform lab-grade medical diagnostic tests that typically require large, expensive instruments.

Costing only $550, the spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI)-Analyzer from Bioengineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor Brian Cunningham's lab attaches to a smartphone and analyzes patient blood, urine, or saliva samples as reliably as clinic-based instruments that cost thousands of dollars.

"Our TRI Analyzer is like the Swiss Army knife of biosensing," said Cunningham, the Donald Biggar Willett Professor of Engineering and director of the Micro + Nanotechnology Lab at Illinois, "It's capable of performing the three most common types of tests in medical diagnostics, so in practice, thousands of already-developed tests could be adapted to it."

Among the many diagnostic tests that can be adapted to their point-of-care smartphone format, is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which detects and measures a wide variety of proteins and antibodies in blood and is commonly used for a wide range of health diagnostics tests.

The TRI Analyzer operates by converting the smartphone camera into a high-performance spectrometer, specifically, the analyzer illuminates a sample fluid with the phone's internal white LED flash or with an inexpensive external green laser diode, and then the light from the sample is collected in an optical fiber and guided through a diffraction grating into the phone's rear-facing internal camera.

These optical components are all arranged within a 3D-printed plastic cradle. sciencedaily.com