Researchers from UCLA have designed a smartphone attachment and app that can detect contamination.

Researchers from UCLA have designed a 3D-printed smartphone attachment and app that can detect the presence of mercury in water. The inexpensive and lightweight “lab on a phone” makes chemical testing more widely available, reducing both the time and cost.

The accompanying app lets people plot the resulting concentration levels to create a crowdsourced map. The test for mercury can be performed easily by anyone after only minimal training.

First, a sample of water is collected in a disposable test tube and then held up to a smartphone equipped with the optical attachment. Using the attachment's LEDs, which are set to two specific frequencies, it detects subtle changes in how light is transmitted to the phone's built-in camera due to mercury-induced nanoparticle clustering in the water. Aydogan Ozcan, the principal investigator on the research, said:

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