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Researchers Create Smartphone System to Test for Lead in Water

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The researchers built a smartphone microscope that can operate in both fluorescence and dark-field imaging modes and paired it with an inexpensive smartphone with an 8-megapixel camera.

A smartphone-based system developed by University of Houston researchers can detect dangerous levels of lead in tap water.

Credit: Harry Anthony

University of Houston researchers have developed a smartphone-based system that can detect dangerous levels of lead in tap water.

The system, comprised of a smartphone and a lens made with an inkjet printer, combines nano-colorimetry with dark-field microscopy, integrated into the smartphone microscope platform to detect levels of lead below 15 parts per billion—the safety threshold set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The researchers used a smartphone equipped with an inkjet-printed lens and the dark-field imaging mode to produce a system that is both portable and easy to operate, and able to detect lead concentration down to at least five parts per billion in tap water. The system's sensitivity reached 1.37 parts per billion in deionized water.

The University of Houston's Wei-Chuan Shih said, "We wanted to be sure we could do something that would be useful from the standpoint of detecting lead at the EPA standard."

From University of Houston News
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