Smartphone spectrometer detects diseases as accurately as lab equipment

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have utilized smartphone technology to develop a spectral transmission-reflectance-intensity (TRI) analyzer. The technology attaches to a smartphone and can analyze samples of blood, urine and saliva just as well as clinical instruments.

The TRI analyzer uses a smartphone's camera as a high-performance spectrometer to collect data from an LED light sent through an inserted sample cartridge. The optical components are then arranged in a 3D-printed plastic cradle. In studying the analyzer on its ability to perform a test on detecting the biomarker associated with pre-term birth in pregnant women and a PKU test to detect an enzyme for growth and development, researchers found the results of both tests were comparable in the results reached by conventional lab equipment.

"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."

The TRI Analyzer can measure multiple samples in a single cartridge. Researchers hope the tool can be utilized in rural areas where access to care and laboratory testing.